Faces of OC Blog

Are you an ovarian cancer survivor? Would you like to share your story with other survivors and ovarian cancer patients to encourage, inspire and bring hope to others?

The OCAO would love to know more about you! Please contact info@ocao.org and let us know if you would be interested in being one of our “Faces of Ovarian Cancer.”

 

Alicia Anne Dunn

Alicia was born March 20, 1975 in Pittsburgh, PA. She has been married for 12 ½ years and has 3 children: Tawney, 16, Jack, 14 and Savannah, 9, as well as a 9 year old Miniature Schnauzer named Major. She also has a stepson named Ryan as well as 2 stepchildren, Korey, 9 and Ryli, 7.Alicia became a licensed Esthetician this past year and works at The Spa at River Ridge in Dublin. The owners, Peigi and Eric Hanson, sponsored a team for Alicia for the OCAO Strides for Hope 5k this past year. Alicia was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer, an immature teratoma, in 2007 at stage 2. She has been a survivor for 7 years now. She says the most difficult thing about her diagnosis was the fear that she felt.

“At first, it was all fear. Then the strength kicked in, until chemo beat me down.”

Alicia says that one of the symptoms that led up to her diagnosis was that she was very tired all of the time. She also noticed that her stomach was bigger, and attributed both symptoms to a lack of exercise at the time. She says she also experienced tenderness in her abdomen when her 2 year old would play and push on her abdomen. During treatment, Alicia says that she had very severe reactions to chemo.

“I was very sick. I was neutropenic. I got a blood clot in my lung and was in and out of the hospital. I had chemo every day for a week then once a week for two weeks then the cycle would start again. I never had a port or PICC line, so my veins were ruined. I also ended up having an allergic reaction to the IV contrast during one of many CT scans. I had cancer. Then chemo almost killed me.”

Through all that Alicia endured with her diagnosis and treatment, she said that her family helped her the most.“My husband and my parents got me through. Also, my little ones. My children were 2, 6 and 9 at the time. I knew I had to do whatever it took to still be here for them. My husband was amazing! He did it ALL. My dad came and sat with me every day while my husband went to work and sometimes he would take me to chemo. He also held me while we waited for the ambulance when I got my blood clot. He is such a hero to me.”

When asked about her battle with ovarian cancer, Alicia had the following to say:

“Being diagnosed with cancer was so surreal. I had no family history. I didn’t ever worry about getting Cancer, let alone at 32 years old. When I first sought a diagnosis by seeing a GYN, I was misdiagnosed as not having cancer. He told me I was too young and it was too large of a tumor. I waited 3 weeks for surgery and then received a phone call 3 weeks after that from the GYN telling me they biopsied the tumor and it came back with cancerous cells, but that he didn’t believe it so he had it retested and it was cancerous. I saw the oncologist the next day and started chemo the following Monday.”I prayed constantly. I took it minute by minute at times. I took solace in the fact that my Oncologist told me that the more side effects you have, the better outcome you have from the treatment. All of the medical professionals that cared for me were amazing – the nurses, residents and doctors at my oncologist’s office and at The James – they saved my life. Being done with chemo wasn’t the end of it though. The whole next year was a period of adjustment. Every pain, twinge, lump…. it was all scary. I went to doctors and had tests more than any other time in my life. Readjusting to daily life and trusting your body is a journey. I was released from my oncologist’s care this past spring. I hadn’t cried that much in quite awhile. I thought I had completely relaxed about a recurrence, but I don’t know that you ever do. It was bittersweet to be released from his care. So exciting and a relief, but they saved my life. They were my guardians. How do you say goodbye and live without a net? But, you do.

“It’s such a blessing and now I raise awareness as much as I can. I talk to women and girls about my experience all of the time. I am now an esthetician and love giving a relaxing and caring service to my guests. I use my passion for and talents in the beauty industry to help women. I am also involved with the OCAO as an advocate for survivors and to raise awareness. They are such a wonderful organization!

Her advice for those with ovarian cancer or who are survivors is simple:

“When I was diagnosed, my oncologist’s office put me in touch with another woman who had recently gone through the same treatment as me. She also had the rare form of ovarian cancer. She told me that her only side effect from chemo was being a little tired. She worked, she shopped. Just took it slower. Although it was calming to my nerves, I was completely unprepared for the journey I was about to be on. You don’t know how you will react to treatment. Everyone is different. Hope for the best, and prepare your mind for the worst. Also, if I ever had to go through ongoing treatment line that again, the first thing I would ask for is a port. A central line port in your chest. It allows access for IVs without destroying your peripheral veins. I definitely recommend that. Lastly: prayer. My faith got me through times when it was all I had to hold on to. Friends and loved ones are amazing and want to help you, and they will. Immensely! There will be times though, when nothing helps. Pray. Much strength and love to all fighting, including their support systems! We are survivors! You can do this!”

More about Alicia:

Favorite quote: “Were you born to resist or be abused? I swear I’ll never give in, I refuse.” -Foo Fighters- Best of You. I love this quote for many reasons. I will never give up fighting and you have to look at every challenge that way. “Live like you were dying” is another favorite. When I’m doing something scary or if I’m nervous, I just think about how I could have died and now every moment is a blessing. I feel like I need to try things and live life to the fullest. I’ve been given that chance.
Favorite movie: Moulin Rouge. SO fun. SO tragic. Bright, beautiful and a whirlwind. Also, What Dreams May Cream. Unbelievable movie. Makes my heart stop and then race. It’s painful and beautiful.
Favorite holiday: Christmas. Magic!
Share an interesting fact about yourself: I absolutely love llamas and can’t wait to meet one someday.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?: Italy. It’s always intrigued me. Romance and Mobsters. Or Peru. I would love to see Machu Picchu.
What is the first thing you notice about another person?: My husband got me with a mixture of confidence, humor and STUNNING looks! Sweeping me off of my feet didn’t hurt either.
Do you have a celebrity crush?: My husband is a drummer. He’s my everything crush!
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?: Happiness.
If you could have any super power, what would it be?: Send people back in time to change their choices or say goodbyes. (Inspired by Erica Harrington)
What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?: Pray.
What is the best advice you can give another person?: Pray.
What are 3 words that best describe who you are?: Sincere. Strong. Spiritual.

nanNan Eckfeld

In the winter of 2002, I was a healthy retiree, living in Kenton, OH. My husband and I were vacationing in Florida when my life slowed down enough for me to notice some strange things happening to my body. I felt some mild, menstrual-like pelvic cramps, and thought that was weird at age 67, but they were so mild I thought it was my irritable bowel syndrome. I noticed that my waist-bands were getting tighter, but I wasn’t gaining weight and I was still working out at the gym, so I decided it was an aging thing. When I sat down for a meal I felt full after eating only a few bites, then would be hungry again in an hour, but wrote that off to “shrinking my stomach” while watching my diet. I never dreamed that I was experiencing three of the classic, most common symptoms of early stage ovarian cancer. Like most women, I didn’t know that ovarian cancer had symptoms, let alone what they were, so I wasn’t worried about these unusual body changes. I blamed everything on age and diet.

A couple of months after our Florida trip, I had a minor surgical procedure for stress incontinence, and during that procedure my doctor did a thorough pelvic exam. She felt a large mass in the area of my left ovary. A CT scan confirmed it and she referred me to a Gynecologic Oncologist (GynOnc) for surgery. I still wasn’t worried because no one in my family had ever had ovarian cancer. Also, my GynOnc told me that 90% of these masses were benign and nothing he could feel was suspicious. And even better, the radiologist’s report from the CT scan suspected a cyst rather than a malignancy.

The frozen section during surgery also said it was not malignant, but they were all wrong. The final lab report, shared with me three days later on my way out the door of the hospital, confirmed ovarian cancer. Although my grapefruit sized tumor was at Stage I, meaning that it had not spread beyond the ovary, it ruptured during surgery, so my doctor recommended the routine six rounds of chemotherapy. That was a tough choice – 80% chance I was already cured or 95% if I did the chemo. I finally decided it was worth the risk of possible long-lasting chemo side-effects for the comfort of knowing I had done everything possible to avoid a cancer recurrence. My 12 grandkids definitely influenced my decision to do the chemo.

In 2002, most people my age weren’t in the habit of doing internet research about medical issues, and I was no exception. Because of my doctor’s reassurances, I failed to do my homework and therefore I didn’t know to ask about my CA125 test number. I later learned that no pre-surgical CA125 blood test had been done. Had I known to ask for the test results, I‘m sure it would not have been overlooked. Because of this, I had no way of knowing if it even worked for me – I had to assume that it did and that my periodic CA125 tests checking for recurrence were valid. But, that feeling of uncertainty was always there.

When told of my cancer diagnosis, I pretty much went emotionally numb. I didn’t cry, get angry, or feel depressed – I just went numb. I felt very blessed that I had an early stage cancer, which is rare, and everyone was very positive and hopeful, so I was, too. However, a few months after I finished chemo, a mild depression did set in. I had expected to be exultant when chemo was over so I definitely had not expected this. I know now that it’s common to be depressed and scared after finishing treatment – you feel that you should be doing more to fight the cancer, but there’s nothing else to do, and it’s frightening. Finally, my emotional numbness was wearing off and I could start to deal with what I’d been through. A month or two later, I had a scare about a possible lung metastasis. After waiting a couple of tense weeks for the test results, I learned that everything was fine – and that’s when I totally lost it. Finally, the numbness and depression were gone and my feelings were back to normal. Since then, I’ve had a colon scare and a breast scare. I know there will be others, but hopefully I’m now better able to handle them. You learn to deal with these scares and try to keep a positive outlook. That’s just a part of life after cancer.

I have three pieces of advice for people undergoing cancer treatment. First: keep moving. All my life I’ve hated exercise, but I’ve been going to a gym three times a week since I retired at the end of 1995, and I continued during chemo as well. I’m absolutely convinced that my exercise program is why I recovered from surgery and chemo as quickly as I did, even though I hated every minute of it (and still do !). I know I have to do it. Second: keep busy. To give me incentive to get up, get dressed, get out, and do something useful during chemo, I quick ran to our local hospital and got a volunteer job in a one-person hospital office, away from other people (protecting me from my chemo-caused low immunity) and which permitted me to work when I felt well enough to do so. You can’t sit around and think about cancer all day. Third: carefully select your doctor. If you don’t have a good relationship with or confidence in your doctor, change doctors. It’s a very difficult decision to make, and I don’t suggest this lightly, but occasionally it’s your best option. You must have confidence in your doctor and feel s/he is the best person to take you through this challenging journey. Your doctor is your employee and you have the right to hire and/or fire him or her. I did, and never regretted it.

Shortly after completing my treatments, we moved to Columbus to be nearer our kids and grands. I immediately started looking for local ovarian cancer agencies, but could find none. I learned that Debbie Banchefsky had run the local NOCC group for several years, but had decided that it was time to move on with her life, and the group had become inactive. When Katie, Jay and Sherri started it up again a couple of years later, Debbie told them to call me, and I joined them immediately. This was what I was looking for, and helping get it started again gave me the opportunity to turn my cancer experience into a positive asset. For the next five years I spent most of my time working with the local NOCC group and doing health fairs and teaching women the symptoms and risks of ovarian cancer.

When NOCC changed its philosophy and its business relationship with its local chapters, we made the difficult decision to break away and form the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Ohio (OCAO), an independent non-profit awareness and education organization. After a couple of more years with the OCAO, I gave myself a 75th birthday gift of my second retirement. I was a survivor, and it was time to spend more time with my husband of 51 years and my 12 grandchildren.

That was five years ago, and I’m thrilled to see how OCAO has grown and the difference it’s making in awareness of ovarian cancer.

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Beverly Witz

Beverly Witz was born April 2, 1951 in Shinnston, WV. She is married to her husband Mike and they have a Wiener dog named Louie. She works as a Provisioner for Cardinal Health where she places orders with multiple vendors for data and voice circuits worldwide.

Bev was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on June 5, 2007 at Stage 2. She says the only symptom she had was some vaginal spotting, but no other symptoms of ovarian cancer. Because of the spotting, she went to her GYN for an annual checkup and told her doctor about the spotting.  Her doctor ordered a trans-vaginal ultrasound which resulted in a CA-125 blood test.  “My level was only 40, so Dr. Christopher Lutman was brought in for a consultation with my doctor. Because of my age and the fact that I was post-menopausal, they did a hysterectomy. June 1st was my surgery date. During surgery my one ovary was checked and there was no cancer found.  On June 5th, however, I was told they finished the pathology report and they had found cancer in the other ovary. Within an hour of being told I had cancer, Dr. Lutman was in my room to introduce himself. My first thought was ‘Oh My God I’m going to die.’ My maternal grandmother died from breast cancer. Multiple aunts and uncles died from colon and lung cancer. I started 6 courses of Chemo of Carboplatin and Paclitaxel (Taxol) July 25th and finished November 14th .”

During treatment, Bev experienced many different symptoms. “I had neuropathy in hands and feet and severe fatigue.  I lost my hair but what I missed most were eyelashes.” But none of that stopped her from her will to keep going. “I wasn’t finished living…too many places to go and things to see. I got very angry because I had cancer and I think that gave me the strength to fight.

“In 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Again, I got very angry which helped me fight the good fight.  I was scheduled for 6 chemo sessions but, due to neuropathy, only took 5.  My 5 year anniversary for breast cancer will be July 2nd, 2015!  FYI – It was primary cancer and unrelated to the ovarian cancer.” Since her remission, Bev has done a lot of traveling and has also returned to work.

Bev has two pieces of advice for those newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer:

First: Stay off the internet! I had never heard about Ovarian Cancer before my diagnosis. As I was in the hospital for 2 weeks after my surgery, due to complications, I didn’t read about it until after I’d met with Dr. Lutman and talked to him in detail. My husband (the world’s absolute best care-giver ever !), went to the internet to research and it frightened him half to death. Second: Become you own healthcare advocate during your treatment. You know what feels right for you and what is normal. Pay attention to what is going on with your care and treatments. The doctors and nurses are wonderful but they have many patients and you only have you to take care of.  I questioned and wrote down my drug reactions to discuss with the doctor at every visit.”

Bev became involved with the Education Committee for the OCAO in 2008 until her breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. She has since rejoined the Education Committee as of 2014. Her hopes for the OCAO are to educate and save as many women as possible. “We need to get the word out on symptoms to make women aware so they can have an earlier diagnosis.  It’s giving back for those who can’t.”

Bev says her involvement with the OCAO has taught her many things. “It’s all about how many wonderful survivors and family members there are out there.  Each year the attendance of the walk in September increases so we must be doing something right.  Gladdens my heart.”

More About Bev

Favorite quote: “It will all be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not end.” – The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel
Favorite movie:  Galaxy Quest (farce on Star Trek)
Favorite holiday: I don’t have a favorite; I think every day is a holiday.
Favorite book: It’s a series – The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon,
Share an interesting fact about yourself: I was Miss Frontier Days (WV) in 1969.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Island near Tahiti, called Taha’a (Ta-Ha-Ah) – it is so far off the grid, an absolutely beautiful peaceful island.  Home of one of the world’s best pearl farms and many vanilla plantations.
What is the first thing you notice about another person? Eyes
Do you have a celebrity crush? George C. Scott, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? Surviving cancer twice!
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Transportation so I could immediately visit any place on Earth.
What is the best advice you have ever received from someone? From my grandmother – Don’t Lie. (It’s important to taste your words before you spit them out.)
What is the best advice you can give another person? Don’t wait until retirement to live your life.
What are 3 words that best describe who you are? Stubborn, Happy, Loyal

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Jamie Kei Haley

Jamie Kei Haley was born May 5, 1987 in Hammond, IN. She is happily married to her husband of a little over a year and they are expecting their first child at the end of May. She has a 9 year old Chihuahua named Lilly and an 8 ½ year old cat named Ringo. Jamie is an Administrative Assistant for a Neurosurgeon at OSU Medical Center.

Jamie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on September 3, 2003, at the age of 17. She noticed irregular periods, severe bloating and back/shoulder pain, which led her to visit her OB/GYN. “I went to an OB/GYN who knew something was wrong based on my physical exam. He sent me for an ultrasound which found my tumor. I honestly don’t remember the feeling… I want to say I was shocked but being so young helped in the sense that I don’t think I really understood.

During treatment, Jamie had to have surgery to remove the tumor and then follow up appointments and scans. Because of her age and still a student in high school, Jamie found the strength to keep going after her diagnosis. Since her remission from ovarian cancer, Jamie has graduated high school and college, gotten married and will soon be having her first child – something she was worried about since her diagnosis that she wouldn’t be able to do!

I have always been a huge advocate of seeing an OB/GYN! You’d be surprised how many young women do not do this regularly! Since there are not routine screenings for ovarian cancer, I think it’s important to have your yearly exam and get comfortable with seeing an OB/GYN so that when/if something feels different/wrong, you have the relationship and feel like you can ask questions! Listen to your body – be your best advocate!

For those who are recently diagnosed, Jamie says that the best thing to do is to keep your hopes up and get connected. “There are great groups such as the OCAO that can help connect survivors. It is nice to have someone else to relate to!” She found the OCAO shortly after a scare with a possible recurrence of ovarian cancer in 2010, and has been involved with the organization since then. As a result of her involvement with the OCAO, Jamie has come to realize that every survivor’s story is different, and her hope is that the OCAO will continue to make ovarian cancer awareness bigger.

More About Jamie

Favorite quote: “To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world”
Favorite holiday: 4th of July
Favorite book: Harry Potter series
Share an interesting fact about yourself: I’m a ¼ Japanese!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Australia or Japan. Australia because I think it is probably one of the prettiest places or Japan since my grandma was from there!
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? I think it will be becoming a mother which has not yet happened but happening soon!
What is the best advice you have ever received from someone? Live with no regrets.
What is the best advice you can give another person? Be yourself, life is short – live it up!
What are 3 words that best describe who you are? Outgoing, compassionate, fun!

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Arnisha Simley

Arnisha Simley is 51 years old and was born in Columbus, Ohio.  She has two grown adult children and five grandkids.  She has been employed with Nationwide Insurance for 26 Years.

Arnisha’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer came as a shock in February 2008.  She had been experiencing pain in her stomach with seeing her regular OBGYN.  “I suffered dizziness, severe cramping, and heavy bleeding, along with a few other systems.”  After several rounds of medication to combat the pain with no success, she asked her doctor to take an ultrasound of her stomach.  During the procedure, it was discovered that the right ovary was quite the problem, enlarged to the size of a grapefruit.  The doctor said ‘there is the problem’ and her ovary would need to be removed.  A laparoscopic surgery was scheduled to remove the one ovary.  After that, Arnisha thought everything was fine, until she received the dreaded call that confirmed the pathology report confirming the ovary was cancerous.

“I was then referred to the Zangmeister Center and consulted with Dr. Luis Vaccarello. On February 28, 2008, the diagnosis was confirmed.  Dr. Vaccarello shared with me everything I would be going through, surgery, chemo, etc, and how this would help me live and fight the cancer.   I remember being so numb, in total disbelief and all I could think about was all the horror stories I’ve heard about chemo therapy and people dying from cancer. I told him I agreed to the surgery, but that was it.  I was refusing to take the chemo therapy sessions.  I remember telling him the surgery will get it all.  My mom was in the consultation with me assuring the doctor that I would do what was necessary, but I had only agreed to the surgery.  I left with that thought only, as the doctor said he couldn’t make me take the chemo.  It was my choice.  Chris Burton, Dr. Vaccarello’s nurse was also there trying to encourage me and she said ‘you are so beautiful and I’m sure you will look as beautiful with a new hair style.'”

On March 13, 2008, Arnisha had her second complete surgery.  Everything went well and it was determined that it was Clear cell carcinoma of the ovary, 1C – Grade 3.   She was discharged to go home to recover, and was laying in bed one day when her grandson, 3 years old at the time, came in with this big flower and said “This is for you NENE – I love you.”  “It was at that very moment, I decided that I wanted to live to see my grandkids and that I would go through the chemotherapy and I would beat this thing called Cancer. I called to schedule the chemo session and asked the doctor how soon after the chemo would I lose my hair as this was important to me.  I didn’t want to lose my hair.  He said 2 weeks after the first session.  Knowing this, I went to my stylist and had her cut it into a boy cut – very low as I had heard it would devastate you to see your hair fall out on the pillow.”

April 15, 2008 was Arnisha’s first chemo session.  She went through 6 rounds of Carboplatin and Placitaxel (Taxol).  The little hair she did have as a boy cut vanished 2 weeks after the first chemo. “I lost hair everywhere.  I missed my eyelashes and had wigs made just for me.” Her last chemo session was  July 29, 2008. “I can say that I was fortunate not to experience the horrible side effects that I had heard. The only side effect for me was pain in my knees and I took something for that. Having cancer is so devastating, however life is so precious, so fight it and live life to the fullest making every day count. My cancer was in remission after the 5 years in 2013 and remains there today. I credit my survival to my faith in God, the Zangmeister center and my family and friends who continues to support me along my journey.”

“Cancer has taught me how to rise up again, let go of what doesn’t matter, live in the moment, and cherish those I love. It was a mental and emotional toll and I learned to embrace it with thoughts that someone else was going through a harder battle than what I was going through. Embrace your cancer with a positive attitude.  It will help you conquer it! Survivors are the best support group because we are proof that HOPE exists.  Cancer started the fight, but you can finish the fight! Tomorrow is not promised, so we have to make each day count!  And they all know I love them dearly for being by side through my journey and my survivorship.”

More About Arnisha

Favorite Quote: “When you come to the end of the rope, tie a Knot and hang on!”
Favorite Movie:  Coming to America
Favorite Holiday:  Easter – I love seeing kids dressed up!
Share an interesting fact about yourself:  I’m a Jane of all trades, you name it, I’ll try it or can do it!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why? Africa – to see my roots
What is the first thing you notice about another person? Their facial expressions!
Do you have a celebrity crush? Charlie Wilson – I love him!!!
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life? Surviving cancer and raising my kids as a single mother and being a grandmother
If you could have any super power, what would it be? To be the genie who sprinkles dust over any sickness or disease to eliminate it.
What is the best advice you have ever received from someone?  Never look back in regret, move on & make it a lesson learned.  No matter what challenges you face,  you can overcome them.
What is the best advice you can give another person? Let go of what doesn’t matter and cherish those you love as tomorrow is not promised so live life to the fullest.
What are 3 word that best describe who you are?  Independent, Loyal, Accommodating

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Stephanie Erin Hurlbut

Stephanie Erin Hurlbut was born June 22, 1986 in Norfolk, VA. Stephanie has been employed with Midwest Express for 11 years. She purchased her first home May 1, 2015 and currently resides in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

Stephanie was diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer on November 23, 2009. She is now fighting her fourth battle with this disease. In the beginning of her diagnosis, Stephanie had all the symptoms: lower back pain, bloating, feeling full quickly, and changes during her cycle. Stephanie’s cancer was misdiagnosed as a kidney infection for several months before an ultrasound was requested. During the procedure the doctors discovered masses on both ovaries and were unable to identify whether they were cancerous or benign so they ordered an MRI to be completed.

Stephanie traveled to Springfield, Ohio, for her MRI and at that point the results were sent to Marysville OB/GYN and there they scheduled for a biopsy. After months of confusion and frustration Stephanie finally received the results. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. Stephanie was in disbelief. She said, “They told me that they were sure of the staging and I would most definitely need chemotherapy and radiation or surgery right away.”

She was referred to Dr. David Cohn at the James Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio. Stephanie began chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She said even though she was in a fight for her life situation, it was the last thing on her mind. After diagnosis, a lot of questions came to mind. One being, could she still have children of her own? Her oncologist at the time referred her to a reproductive doctor. Unfortunately after reading over the scans, they said they were unable to help Stephanie. It was too risky. They were afraid to go in and collect eggs in fear that it would aggravate the cancer and cause it to spread. At that point, everything finally sunk in and Stephanie began to feel helpless. She said, “When you have a plan in life, and something happens that destroys your plan, it truly is devastating. I felt lost for the longest time after my diagnosis. I always wanted to be a mother and felt somewhat punished because no longer was that an option for me.” Although the odds were against her and she had a long road ahead, Stephanie continued treatment at the James Cancer Center. After months of chemotherapy and radiation they performed several scans. The treatments were not working and the doctors learned that Stephanie was resistant to the chemo.

They felt it was in her best interest to have a de-bulking surgery. They scheduled the surgery and Stephanie had an amazing support group there for her to help her be prepared. The day of the surgery, Stephanie was very nervous, she said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, the doctors basically have to tell you worst case scenario with every operation they perform. I was prepared for the worst.”

After a couple hours Stephanie woke up from surgery and the nurse came in. Stephanie’s family was called to the room and they were told the bad news. The cancer had spread to her diaphragm and the doctors felt she was inoperable. They offered for her to sign some paperwork for a clinical trial where they would need her permission to participate. Stephanie signed the release.

Stephanie and her family left the hospital that day with sadness. “We were all pretty much speechless” “What we thought was supposed to help didn’t work. We felt like there was no hope” she said.

Stephanie returned to work and just tried not to think about everything while she awaited the results from the clinical study. After about two weeks she received a phone call at work. The doctors informed her that she was not a match for their trial. Once again, she was delivered devastating news. “I felt like I couldn’t win. I felt like no matter what we tried, the cancer was going to win. All the bad news just took over me.” She said.

Stephanie’s family was not ready to give up on her and were searching around the clock for other options, other treatment centers, and looking for a second opinion. One day her mom and sister were at home and saw a commercial on TV for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. While Stephanie was at work they called and spoke with one of the patient advocates and were able to schedule Stephanie’s first appointment at the CTCA. Within a few days Stephanie and her mom Lynn Goodrich were on a plane travelling to Chicago for a second opinion.

When they arrived they were introduced to Stephanie’s new care team. All of Stephanie’s labs and scans were repeated and the care team and Oncologist Sybilann Williams sat her down and discussed her plan for treatment. After four months of chemotherapy Stephanie’s tumors had shrunk in half. She couldn’t believe they found a treatment that was working! She continued Tobotecan and Avastin for eight months total when she finally received the results she was waiting for. Stephanie was in remission!! Her scans were clear! “The doctors were excited for me,” she said. “They said they wanted to monitor me every three months to make sure there were no recurrences but I was allowed to be off chemotherapy! I was so excited!!!”

Stephanie remained in good health for about 11 months before her first recurrence. She was in Chicago for her routine scans when they found the cancer had returned. At this point they wanted to be aggressive. They referred Stephanie to a surgeon. Stephanie was introduced to Surgical Oncologist Harold Huss. She said, “He explained this surgery called the HIPEC to me. It was unreal. He said I would be under anesthesia for over 12 hours and they would have to make a huge incision down my abdomen. That they would flush my abdomen with heated chemotherapy after de-bulking all the tumors and they would (shake) me on a table to make sure the chemotherapy was distributed throughout my abdomen to kill any remaining cancer cells before closing me shut. I thought he was crazy. (laughing) I told my mom I felt like he was trying to sell me a car on a car lot.” It was after my surgery that I realized why he spoke so highly of this surgery. On April 2nd of 2012, Stephanie was admitted for the HIPEC surgery. The surgery was performed by Surgeons Harold Huss and Charles Brown, the director of surgery at the CTCA. After 15 hours, Stephanie’s surgery was complete. The doctors reached out to her parents and informed them that she was considered “Cancer Free” again. They were confident that all the cancer was removed and she began her recovery. “I remember my mom coming into my hospital room while I was recovering, it was the day after my surgery and with tears in her eyes she told me I was cancer free. I don’t remember much after that, I didn’t remember that moment right away either. The memory just came back to me one day a few months after surgery.”

Stephanie was in remission for 22 months before she was again informed of a recurrence. She was so angry. She was ready to celebrate her two years cancer-free with her family and friends by her side. She didn’t give up though. She began her third fight. She started a couple different chemotherapy options but there wasn’t much success. They asked her how she felt about trying a different type of therapy. It was a pill she could take daily. It was somewhat a clinical study. They thought maybe her cancer was estrogen fed. They put me on Letrizole (Femara). This tiny pill, I had to take daily. “No side effects,” I thought to myself. There is no way this is working. I don’t even feel any different. My mom and I had this funny thing where we thought that if I felt really bad, that meant the chemo was working. Lol she said. Fortunately, to their surprise, that wasn’t the case at all. Stephanie went in for lab results and her CA125 was dropping. She continued this clinical treatment for almost 12 months and eventually achieved clear scans again. It was time to celebrate! Stephanie was in remission for 4-5 months this time and that was when she purchased her first home. This was a huge deal to her. Not only did she finally get to fulfill one of her dreams, but she also got to travel to Chicago and be recognized at the Annual “Celebrate Life” event in Chicago. She was introduced to the founders of the CTCA and they rewarded her with a gold plaque that is hanging on one of the survivor trees at the CTCA in Chicago. This is how they recognize their fighters/survivors. “This symbol shows that I fought for at least 5 years and I didn’t give up! Even though there were times where I thought I was ready, I pushed through.”

After finally getting settled in to her new house and all the excitement of Celebrate Life was over, Stephanie received news again during a follow up that the cancer had returned. The doctors decided to try chemotherapy again. After months of chemotherapy and no desired results they decided to go back to Letrizole. Stephanie is now receiving Letrizole and her numbers are dropping more and more each appointment. She is due May 23rd for her newest CAT scans. She is very optimistic that everything is going to be just fine.