An update from Marilyn
After a year of aggressive chemotherapy, myriad medications and frequent doctor visits, I am still fighting. Though there haven’t been any significant changes in my tumors, no new tumors are present. The tumors that do exist haven’t grown, and that is significant enough to me. My doctors are optimistic and continue to help me make decisions in my best interest and I’m feeling better and stronger than I have in recent weeks. There are many cancer stories that aren’t going as well as mine. I thank God for his constant care in my life and to serve as a reminder to you that when your body talks, listen.
The early morning doctor’s appointment was merely a formality. After two diagnostic tests, I knew what she would most likely tell me. I had late-stage ovarian cancer.
Signs and Diagnosis
Just a few short weeks before, the traditional symptoms appeared. I experienced irritated bowels at first, and then noticed an unusual abdominal bloating. My doctor ordered a CT scan for the next afternoon. The scan diagnosed excess fluid in the abdominal cavity, so a paracentesis was ordered to extract the fluid for testing.
Paracentesis is the procedure in which a needle or catheter is inserted into the peritoneal cavity to obtain ascetic fluid for diagnostic purposes. During the procedure, they drained six liters of fluid from my abdominal cavity. The ARNP told me the color of the fluid was amber.
When I returned home after the procedure, I researched what amber-colored peritoneal fluid might indicate. After I read several online articles, the diagnosis of ovarian cancer seemed unavoidable.
I was blessed to have a primary care physician with our local HMO, Capital Health Plan, who realized there was more going on with me than just digestive issues. She did the research and referred me to one of the best gynecological surgeons in the country, known for her expertise in ovarian cancer surgery. The next day my husband and I traveled to Gainesville for a consult with her.
One week later, I was back at Shands Hospital for the surgery for a complete hysterectomy. Not only did the surgical team extract my ovaries, but also they took fallopian tubes, uterus and selected lymph nodes. The skilled surgical team did their work, and a caring staff of nurses and certified nursing assistants cared for me for the next seven days. On the eighth day, I was introduced to another compassionate medical team who administered the first of six chemotherapy infusions.
Blessed with Support
During the last few months, God has blessed me in many ways. I feel His comfort through family, friends, work-family, church-family, neighbors and even strangers sending Facebook messages of encouragement and prayers.
Meals were provided for my children while my husband and I were away from home. My adult daughters cared for their younger brother and provided us with a sense of peace that the home front was under control.
Both my work-family and my husband’s co-workers ensured that all deadlines were met. Both offices supported us above and beyond what most would expect from employers. Any issue that arose was miraculously solved almost as soon as – or before – I was even aware that there was an issue.
Don’t Ignore the Subtle Signs
While a great majority of cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the later stages, there are important steps you can take for early diagnosis.
An annual pelvic exam by your gynecologist can detect abnormalities. Pay attention to changes in your body and schedule a doctor visit to discuss those changes. Know your family medical history and discuss newer screening and diagnostic tests with your doctor.
Ovarian cancer is treatable – even in the later stages. Don’t ignore the subtle signs.
Please share her story; we can save lives through early diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer.