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"I was diagnosed December 24, 2007. Had surgery on January 4, 2008. I had
just retired in Aug 2007, bought a new house. Then my world stopped for awhile.
I was just going into the hospital for exploratory surgery. They could not
find my left ovary on the sonogram. I was only to be there for about 3
days. I stayed for 8 days and was told I had ovarian cancer. Well, I knew no
one who had this, so I had no idea what I had. I started chemo on Feb. 4,
2008. Was encouraged to get on the research program of 22 treatments. I did
not want to do this, but was more or less talked into it. After the first 6
treatments, it was supposed to be just the research drug Avastin. In
December 2008, I had a scan and my lymph nodes were enlarged, so he put me
back on another cycle of a different drug. In April of this year I had 2
clean scans and have been off treatment since. I go in September for another
scan and it will determine what happens with that one.
In January 2009 my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He took 42
treatments of radiation.
I still have some neuropathy in my feet. Have just a gem of a doctor and
team of nurses. But over all doing well."
"My name is Cindy Swift and I am a survivor. Our Labrador (now 13 months old) saved my life. I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer at age 41. On Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009 our Labrador puppy tripped me and I landed on my left kneecap. One week later I went to the emergency room with severe calf pain and was diagnosed with a DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis – blood clot – the DVT was caused by the cancer) and also put on crutches for an ankle injury (result of the fall one week prior to the visit to the emergency room). While beginning treatment for the DVT and waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon for my ankle I developed a fever and a cough that wouldn’t go away (the cough had been progressively getting worse for about 3 months). Since the cough wouldn’t go away I requested further testing – my internist ordered a chest CT Scan (June 22nd). On June 22, 2009 the doctors found an 8-10 cm mass on my right ovary and I was told that “it does not look good and is most likely Ovarian Cancer.” My blood work a couple of days later showed my CA125 levels to be over 400. On my second visit to my oncologist I was admitted to the hospital because of running high fevers that just would not go away. On July 7, 2009 I had a complete hysterectomy and spent a total of 12 days in the hospital. I have since received 8 chemo treatments (last one on January 7, 2010) and hope to have a full recovery (first follow-up CT Scan is scheduled for late February 2010). I am very fortunate in being diagnosed in Stage IIa – my cancer was only on my right ovary and had not spread anywhere else. My symptoms were very vague and really only included abdominal bloating and some random cramping (not severe). As we look back we found that my symptoms also included the fever and cough – the fever and cough went away almost immediately after my surgery.
After my diagnosis my oncologist had me see a genetic counselor to further investigate why I have Ovarian Cancer. I tested negative for the BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 genes and am waiting for possible further testing for Lynch Syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)) – people with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, skin, and prostate. Women with this disorder also have a high risk of cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and ovaries. We have also discovered that there has been a family history of some of these particular cancers as well.
I know that God has been with me every step of the way and will continue to be there each and every day. "
"Sitting in my home office writing this, I look around the room that was once Gail's nursery... wonderful memories of bringing this precious little bundle home from the hospital ... the white wicker bassinette sitting just behind where my chair is now. Fast forward with me the pre-school years of being a stay at home mom, dancing across the kitchen floor with Gail standing on my socked feet, piano lessons, tricycles, lemonade stands, bicycles, Brownie scouts, cheerleading, band practice, ball games, children - then teenagers hanging out at our house. Thirty years of holidays, vacations, laughter, a few tears. A special mother/daughter relationship - a bond like no other... unconditional love.
Gail graduated from Silver Bluff High School with honors in 1994 and was attending USC in Columbia when she was diagnosed with ovarian cysts. The cysts were surgically removed and everything seemed perfectly normal for years. Gail continued attending college, transferring to USC-Aiken before graduating in 1999 (she jokingly said she was on the five-year plan). Gail worked at Publix in Aiken during college and her Target career began with the opening of the new store in Aiken shortly after graduation. "Abi" as she was called by her Target team, later made career moves to Charleston, Summerville, then Florence, SC.
While some women may have changed doctors for convenience after they moved, Gail trusted her doctor in Augusta and continued seeing her for yearly examinations. In 2005, when Gail was 29 years old, she wasn't feeling well and thought she had cysts again. At her next appointment she asked the doctor for a sonogram and was told that the pain she was having was from scar tissue from her earlier surgery and a sonogram wasn't necessary. Gail and I discussed this at length before she drove back to Florence - with Gail finally telling me, "but mom, she's the doctor".
The pain and discomfort did not go away. Gail went to a chiropractor near Florence for back pain - and had spa massages, too. Her paternal grandmother had recently been moved to an assisted living facility near Aiken and Gail desperately wanted to be close by to visit - so in the summer of 2006, she transferred from Target in Florence to the Aiken Target even though it meant stepping down from an executive position. She was finally nearby - close to family and friends and working five days a week and in retail THAT is practically unheard of. Everything was wonderful... and we were looking forward to the holidays already. No more rushed traveling to spend holidays or days off together. Gail settled in to the new job, enjoyed being within minutes of nieces and nephews, church, friends and family. She joined Curves - and was named their 'biggest loser' of inches and pounds her first month. Gail at times seemed tired, but she attributed that to the new job - at least that's what she told me. She went to a prompt care medical facility with back and body aches the week before her upcoming appointment. A friend and Target team member later told me that Gail was having extreme pain at work the weeks leading up to this next appointment. And I was unaware of the over the counter medications Gail was taking for upset stomach, etc.
In October 2006, four months after Gail moved back to Aiken, at what was scheduled as a routine annual physical, a “mass” was found. Within a week, Gail had major surgery - and the mass was soon diagnosed as small cell ovarian cancer, stage IIIc. Rounds of chemo quickly followed and I was thankful that, even though Gail kept her apartment in Aiken, she stayed with me during this time. Gail was able to focus solely on following doctor's orders and family members made sure she had what she wanted or needed. Her faith remained strong and she knew she'd "be ok" regardless of the outcome. Gail asked me one day, "What if the chemo doesn't work?" We discussed not being able to imagine what life would be like without the other one here... how difficult it would be... and that regardless of which of us went first, we'd save a place for the other one in Heaven. That may not have been the perfect answer - not that there is one - but I never expected the two of us to have a conversation like that. The bottom line was we knew that regardless of the outcome of this battle with cancer, we'd see each other again.
On February 14, 2007 -- less than four months after her annual checkup -- Gail, my only child, became one of the estimated 15,250 women who lost their battle with ovarian cancer in 2007. I had a choice - I could grieve myself to death or I could make something positive out of this horrible experience. I did what Gail would've done if the roles were reversed... I chose to make a difference in ovarian cancer awareness.
In April 2007 a Relay For Life team formed by family, friends and co-workers in Gail’s memory. Our team, Gail's Anatomy, celebrates those fighting cancer and those that have won the battle; we remember those that have passed; and we fight back by sponsoring ovarian cancer awareness events year round. The team has raised more than $20,000 for the American Cancer Society with all funds directed to ovarian cancer awareness. Ovarian cancer awareness events have been held at Washington Savannah River Company; Curves for Women; the Aiken Mall; URS Washington Division in Aiken; PowerCuts Salon & Spa; Target stores in Florence, Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville and Aiken, SC; the Town of Jackson, SC; USC-Aiken with the softball team (10/4/08 and 10/3/09) and the basketball teams (12/13/08 and 1/13/10); as well as Jackson Middle School, Midland Valley High School and Fox Creek High School. Other businesses have joined the awareness campaign, which include: Lamar Advertising (in Augusta, GA), Denise Jane Portrait Design, Innovative Solutions, Jim Hanna Sports, Necessary Arrangements, Up & Away on Laurens Street, Aiken Chamber of Commerce, and Newberry Hall in Aiken, South Carolina. URS Washington Division Headquarters in Boise, Idaho published an article in the Employee Communication newsletter during September (Ovarian Cancer Awareness month), which was distributed to their employees worldwide. Billboards focusing on ovarian cancer awareness are displayed during the month of September. This website was highlighted in the August 2009 CSRABereaved Parents newsletter to promote ovarian cancer awareness. Skirt! magazine featured ovarian cancer awareness in the 24/7 Q&A section of the September '09 issue and Augusta Oncology Associates staff wear our "Fight Like A Girl" t-shirts each week in support of ovarian cancer awareness!
Gail did everything right. She had gynecologic exams every year since she was 18 years old. She even went to the same doctor. Gail had none of the risk factors; there was no known family history of ovarian or breast cancer, but this horrible disease introduced itself to our family. Gail discovered after her diagnosis that she had all the symptoms of ovarian cancer except one. We both thought that a yearly physical and pap test would detect any potential female problems. We can't change the past but we can certainly make a difference now by taking steps to educate others. Don't let this happen to you. Pay attention to your body - you know yourself better than any one or any doctor. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, follow the recommendation of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and see your physician. Insist on a CA-125 blood test and a transvaginal sonogram. Early detection makes a difference... early detection saves lives. Together we can make a difference in the fight against ovarian cancer. Let's begin with you.
Thank you for reading Gail's story.
~Gail's mom, DebbieJackson
Dear Teal Walk folks and especially Louisa,
I want to compliment you on the extremely well run walk on Sat. I live in the Catskills but made a point to come down to Brooklyn for the walk. (I was diagnosed about 5 1/2 years. And while my journey goes up and down, I am still hanging in there.) I am so touched, impressed and moved by Louisa and all who made this event happen. It was a privilege to do my little part of putting one foot in front of the other.
All the best to all of you and a debt of gratitude,
My story is to let all women know of the importance of getting your yearly exam at the gynecologist and following up on abnormal tests.
Back in January of 2002 I went for my normal papsmear and week later I received a phone call that I had abnormal cells and it looked like dysplasia. This was the first time I ever had a bad pap smear so of course I went into hysteria and called all of my female support and everyone told me dont worry everyone gets a bad pap smear. So I went to the doctor for the follow up visit and they did a coposcopy and found a spot and sampled it. A week later it came back as nothing. I was told to follow up in 6 months. Around 6 months later I went in for a routine visit for a yeast infection not worried about the last scare since it was "nothing" anyway and a week later they called and said that I had a bad pap smear but this time it was something different. This time I went in to have a scraping and again was reassured that it was nothing and that I never had a bad pap smear but they just wanted to make sure. Well a week later just before Thanksgiving I was told that I have "Carcinoma Insitu" and that it was non invasive yet but it was aggressively moving up my uterus. Since this was all done with my Gynecologist I decided to get a second opinion with an Oncologist and opted for a partial hysterectomy because there was no guarantee that it would not spread if they did a coning.
I was very lucky that I only needed to receive a partial and I kept my ovaries but and it is a big BUT if I didn't go to the doctor and follow up when I did months would have changed my life. My message to all women is that "GO for your YEARLY exam and don't skip plus follow up and research your diagnosis even if they say its nothing!!! I am hoping to be there for the walk on September 12th with some of my friends and if I cant be there I will help in other way.