Contributed by cancer survivor, Ms Aimee Strunk living in Houston, Texas, United States of America.
My experience with Ovarian Cancer
I am a 10 year survivor of Stage 1 Ovarian cancer. I was diagnosed at age 49 and I am now 59 years old.
One day, suddenly I was unable to eat very much or drink much either. There was finally no poo. I did not know, I had no idea of what was going on in my body. I found out that this is called early satiety. It is a prime symptom of Ovarian Cancer. I had a low grade fever as well. I did not feel well. I talked with my friends and we thought I had diverticulitis. My tummy pooched out a lot. I had recently lost a little weight and now my stomach protruded.
I got an apppointment with my internist who checked me for diverticulitis. He had no idea of what this could be and he was ready to release me and tell me to wait a while to see what other symptoms would show up. I stopped by his office on my way out and I leaned against the door jamb and told him that I just didn't feel good.
Then he decided to prescribe a CT Scan for me. When he got those results, he organized the surgeon and sent me to Methodist Hopsital. The surgeon came in to examine me prior to surgery and he declined to do the surgery. My internist referred me to a gynecologic oncologist. I was to call his office to set up my appointment. I called and waited for 3 days for someone to call me back for my appointment. (These appointments should be made office to office). Remember that I am unable to eat or drink. The oncologist was going on vacation for 2 weeks and asked me if I would wait until he got back, of course not. So he spoke to his associate who was able to see me the next day (Thursday) and I had surgery on Friday.
The surgeon was very good in giving me and my family the news of the cancer. I was told that because the cancer was aggressive and rapid growing that it had been found quickly. And it got removed quickly. The mass had wrapped around my intestines and that is why I was unable to eat.
I had six courses of chemo which was Taxol and Cisplatin. I received it in the veins on the backs of my hands.
A complication from this situation is that I had a Pulmonary Embolism. I was taking too high a dose of premarin, I was sitting too long on a driving vacation, I had had chemo. I was overweight and I had a family history of my mother having had phlebitis in her legs. Now I can no longer take estrogen. I have a genetic propensity to clot and I will be on blood thinner medication the rest of my life.
I finally grew confident that I would survive Cancer. I also went to a doctor who is Board Certified in Family Medicine who specializes in alternative medicine. He prescribed a product that combines a variety of supplements to increase a patient's immunity. It is called Wholly Immune and I buy it online at Organic Pharmacy.org. I do not know the correct dosage. I have been taking this supplement faithfully and I have only had two colds in the two years that I have been on chemo with a very low white count.
After 5 plus years, the cancer recurred. I felt a small strangeness in my elimination and mentioned it to the oncologist. She scheduled a CT Scan quickly and discovered the new mass. It was found quickly.
There was also a blood clot in my vena cava. I had been remiss in having my protime test done regularly. So the doctor had to be concerned about the clot migrating during surgery. The hematologist recommended inserting a device to catch the clot into my artery at my neck. Fortunately technology had progressed enough that this screen was now removable after surgery. Since the decision to have surgery I have been on Lovenox to thin my blood, Lovenox is administered by injection into the area below the navel. It is a blood thinner with no residual effects so it will not cause excessive bleeding during surgery.
The surgery removed the mass. That evening I was in my room sleeping off the effects of the anesthesia. My husband was staying in the room with me. He said I sat up in bed and was snoring with my eyes wide open. He called the nurse who took my blood pressure which was 40 over 20 and called a code blue. I was put in ICU and tested it was found that all my fluids had migrated to the third space in my body. This was a result of over sedation.
Now I was set for 6 chemos. THE DOCTOR SENT A BIOPSY FOR ANALYSIS TO DETERMINE WHICH CHEMO TO USE FOR ME. THIS IS AN UNUSUAL PROCEDURE. MOST DOCTORS JUST START YOU ON A CHEMO AND THEN RUN THROUGH THE LIST AVAILABLE. MY DOCTOR HAD THE CANCER BIOPSY EVALUATED SO THAT WE WOULD KNOW IF I WAS NOT SENSITIVE TO ANY PARTICULAR CHEMO FOR THIS DISEASE. The chemo she used was Taxotere and Carboplatin.
The chemo infusion was given in the veins on the backs of my hands. I had pain in those blood vessels. I was told to put hot compresses on the backs of my hands and use antibiotic ointment. The result was the veins became hard and then the vein in my left hand dissolved and the right hand vein is diminshed in size. I do not remember being told that the chemo I was taking was a vascular irritant and this could be a side effect.
I also had a chemical burn from the inside of my body out. Apparently a small amount of chemo leaked out when the needle was inserted into the vein in my arm. The burn was about 2" x 2" and blistered up.
The doctor did not say or I didn't hear it or it was made light of, that if ovarian/peritoneal cancer recurred, then it would recur again.
So here I am 22 months later with another mass. The same oncologist did the surgery this time too. She is very courageous to keep me as a patient because so many things can go wrong with my body. My husband and I had planned a vacation to New Jersey to see the fall leaves and then visit our daughter. So my oncologist said I should go and she would schedule my surgery for when I got back.
My surgery was on 10-25-06. She closed me up and said the mass was inoperable because it had wrapped around the vessels moving nourishment that lead from my intestines to my body.
She did not take a biopsy then. She had seen the same mass in the prior surgery.
She came into my hospital room and looked so defeated. She was sure this was a death sentence. She offered hope that possibly one of the chemos would work for me. And new ones were being created all the time. etc.
I am friends with a woman who is very psychic. She suggested I ask for a second opinion. My oncologist's office organized the 2nd opinion and I decided to change doctors.
The new doctor wanted to treat me with a more aggressive chemo regimen than the doxil that the other oncologist suggested.
My husband and my family felt like aggressive therapy was what we wanted.
So now one and a half years later I have failed all standard of care for this cancer. I have written my goodby letters and planned my funeral.
My oncologist made a career move and the new young doctor saw an email or a postit from a colleague that mentioned testing the biopsy genetically. This was really a fluke. Most doctors do not test the cells. They do not realize that there could be a reason to test the cells.
This has shown me that WE MUST DEMAND THIS TESTING FROM OUR DOCTORS.
Thank goodness for seredipity.
It turns out that my mass consists of 90% her-2 cells and 10% regular ovarian cancer cells. The her-2 cells are ordinarily found in breast cancer and there is a specific chemo for those cells. My doctor said cancer cells are no longer region specific. I was talking with someone in the CT Scan lobby who had colon cancer cells in her breasts. After the first month on Herceptin and Taxol my CA 125 dropped from 77 to 21. It really looks like I will survive this illness. My last CT Scan indicated that the mass had diminished. However the Radiologist did not give the measurement of how much smaller the mass is. That is frustrating because there is usually a measurement if the mass is larger.
Since Herceptin has not been approved by the FDA for use in any cancer other than breast cancer, it is designated experimental by my husband's insurance company and not covered. I do not qualify for aid from the manufacturer of the chemo. And I am unable to join any trials since I started the chemo too early.
Since I wrote this essay, I have received news that the insurance will cover the cost of my chemo. That is such a relief, because the last statement was for $50,000.00. My husband and I felt such a sense of relief.
Good luck and blessings to all those who are reading this article.