For the past several years, I’ve presented my story for OCA of San Diego’s community outreach HEAR™ program. My goal is to inspire, impower, and encourage others to put their health at the top of their lists. I imagine there’s many people that don’t know the early warning signs of cancer like me. Each time I present my story, I feel others can be more prepared than I was by learning the symptoms and risk factors for GYN cancers. Today, I see every day as a gift. I’ve found a new balance in life and continue to make adjustments to keep my health on the TOP of my list.
No joke! April Fools Day is a big anniversary for me. On April 1, 2009 I was diagnosed with Stage 3-C ovarian cancer. Good Friday, a day of fasting and penance, is another anniversary – that was the day of my first surgery. Most of us don’t forget the dates of these milestones, and in my case the significance of the holidays makes it even easier.
To say that I am one of the lucky ones is an understatement. My type of late stage, fast growing cancer often results in re-occurrence within three to five years. I’m still in remission nine years later because of the collaboration of many doctors, nurses and a great deal of incredible good luck.
Like so many of us, I didn’t recognize my relatively mild symptoms – bloating, burping, loss of appetite and expanding waistline – until the abdominal pain started. My general practitioner quickly referred me to a gynecological oncologist. Surgery and chemo took its toll on me for more than a year. Then my body formed abdominal scar tissue and adhesions that required a second surgery. I am now permanently on a very bland, soft, low fiber/low residue diet. I’ll never again enjoy my favorite meal – a big bowl of spaghetti with salad, bread and wine. But I’m not complaining. I have carte blanche to eat as much ice cream as I want!
I also want to do as much as I can to prevent other women from experiencing this dreadful disease. That’s why I’m proud to be part of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of San Diego’s teams, promoting education and research that facilitates the early diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.
I’m Barbara H., a 25-year survivor of stage 2b grade 3 ovarian cancer. I experienced bloating, pelvic pain, urinary issues and a general sense that something was wrong. After being insistent, I was seen by a doctor who listened to me and within a week I was in surgery which found my ovarian cancer. The cancer was an endometrioid-like adenocarcinoma of the ovary, the closest diagnosis possible at the time.
I first learned about the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of San Diego in the summer of 2009. I had just retired and was attending a cancer survivorship celebration. I was introduced to Peg Ford and she invited me to join a group she had started to present the Survivors Teaching Students (STS) program to medical and nursing students. After attending a training class, I started presenting my story of diagnosis at STS presentations. After several years, I was encouraged to train to become a facilitator for the program. Since completing the training, it has been my honor to facilitate presentations for medical students, nursing students and others in the medical field.
The Ovarian Cancer Alliance of San Diego became a 501c(3) non-profit organization in 2014 and I became one of the early board members. Our organization has been active in the community sharing our message of early symptoms and risk factors so other women who are diagnosed are diagnosed early, as I was, so they too may have long term remissions. I continue to dance with NED, no evidence of disease.