Diana Chow calls herself a woman with options even though she has stage IV high-grade serous ovarian cancer. She gives credit for this positive outlook to her MD Anderson care team, led by Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine.
"Thank God for MD Anderson," Diana says. "Otherwise, I'm certain that right now I wouldn't be here."
An unexpected ovarian cancer diagnosis
Diana's cancer journey began on Dec. 16, 2010. She'd been helping her sister move furniture when she pulled an abdominal muscle. That led to a trip to the emergency room and a CAT scan that resulted in a much more serious diagnosis: ovarian cancer.
Ironically, Diana received her ovarian cancer diagnosis a year to the day after she'd lost her husband to complications from diabetes. "It was a hard time for me," she says.
From the emergency room, Diana came to MD Anderson, where Diana underwent further testing. It turned out she had not one but many tumors. They were on her liver, intestine, spine and elsewhere.
"I was surprised at how much the cancer had spread," Diana says. "But Dr. Schmeler gave me options from the very beginning."
She underwent chemotherapy followed by surgery and "a few more chemotherapy sessions."
"Everything looked fine," Diana says. "I was gradually getting back into the swing of things. I was getting my hair back, and I went to my daughter's graduation from culinary school."
"A tumor that wouldn't go away"
In September 2011, Diana returned to MD Anderson, and "there it was, this stubborn tumor that wouldn't go away."
Grateful to have choices with each new round of chemotherapy and radiation, Diana continues to fight back.
"There's always hope, and you're never out of options," she says. "That's what keeps me going."
Diana, who has a family history of cancer, underwent genetic testing and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. That knowledge, she says, is a powerful prevention tool for her two grown daughters.
"I want my children to be proactive with this test so they can prevent getting stage IV cancer," she says.
An advocate for ovarian cancer research
Since her diagnosis, Diana has been concerned with the lack of funding that ovarian cancer research receives. So she had a cause to champion when she heard that MD Anderson had selected high-grade serous ovarian cancer for the Moon Shots Program, an ambitious program that brings together large multidisciplinary teams to attack several types of cancer.
Diana knows research is important, saying, "It gives me options."
"I put my life on hold the year after my husband passed away," Diana says. "But I realized I have to keep living. I have faith in MD Anderson -- it gives me the hope and the strength to keep going."