My Experience with Ovarian Cancer

Shorn Dad and Bald Blake August 2004 Amanda and Blake make pizza August 2004

In 2004 at the age of 23, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

The question I am asked the most is how I found out I had it. After several months of off-and-on abdominal swelling and pain, I started to get major back pain when I exercised. By that time, I had a round, hard abdomen that just ached. I had sort of ignored the fatigue and weight loss because I was busy and tried to keep myself healthy and thin. I knew I wasn’t pregnant, but there was definitely something large in there.

Having recently moved, I had no regular doctor. At my well-woman exam two months prior to my diagnosis, the doctor felt nothing out of the ordinary. But by June I was tired of ignoring the pain and scared of what it might be. My Mom and I went to the ER when my back pain got bad. They did an ultrasound and CT scan. I was referred to an oncologist.

This is a picture of my ovarian tumor taken during surgery June 22, 2004. It was 22 cm at largest diameter, weighed 668 grams, and was encased in my left ovary.

I had asked my doctor if he would take a picture of it for me. Gruesome, maybe, but I wanted to see it before it was cut up and sent to the lab.

He made good on his promise, and when I woke from the anesthesia, the picture was in my hands.

One of the first things I remember saying was, “Mom, did you see this who’e?”

I had a unilateral salpingo oophorectomy (the surgical removal of an ovary and fallopian tube on the same side – see my scar here). My tumor turned out to be a type of germ cell tumor called a grade two immature teratoma. I had stage one cancer, meaning that I was lucky – it was well contained and had not spread.

I completed nine weeks of chemotherapy, a regimen of BEP (bleomycin, etoposide, and platinum) delivered through a PICC line. The first, fourth, and seventh weeks were spent in the hospital getting all three drugs, while the other weeks I went to my doctor’s office for bleomycin.

There were frequent blood tests and injections to boost my white and red counts, but thanks to those and the amazing anti-nausea drug, Zofran, I was sick only twice during those nine weeks. I had excellent care from Dr. Bruce Fine and his office, the staff at Medical City Dallas, and my wonderful family and friends.

Almost five years later, I am healthy and still cancer free! The one-year mark is important because 75% of cases that will return do so within the first year; that percentage increases to 95% at two years. At five years, I am considered cured. Remarkably, we now have a baby girl.

If you are experiencing anything like this or know someone who is, or if you would just like to talk with me about this, contact me here.

To read my story for the NOCC website, click here.