Just before she received her ovarian cancer diagnosis, Meredith Ippolito traveled to the shores of Normandy, France. She stood on Omaha Beach and thought of the brave soldiers who fought in WWII. When she later began her ovarian cancer treatment she thought of those soldiers again. If they could do that, she thought, surely she could make it through her treatment.
Meredith always remembered the John Wayne quote, "Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway."
An ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment
Meredith inherited the BRCA1 gene mutation from her father.
"People think only women can have the gene," Meredith says. "We're the gender that manifests the trouble most, but women aren't the only gender that carries the gene."
After experiencing rectal bleeding in 2008, Meredith had a colonoscopy. Doctors found flat polyps, but no cancer. They decided to do a colon resection.
That's when Meredith's cancer was discovered. The doctors performed a debulking surgery and removed 50 lymph nodes. Meredith received the news when she awoke from surgery: she had stage 3 ovarian cancer. She decided to seek treatment at MD Anderson.
Meredith participated in a clinical trial in which she received Taxol and Carboplatin weekly as well as Avastin and intraperioneal (IP) chemotherapy. Throughout her ovarian cancer treatment, she had her lungs drained twice, her spleen biopsied and three blood transfusions. But through it all, she remembered to have courage.
Meredith was especially grateful for the support she received throughout her treatment. Led by Kathleen Schmeler, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine, her medical team was with her every step of the way.
"I'd go to Siberia if Dr. Schmeler told me to," Meredith says.
When she first met Schmeler, Meredith was reminded of one of her three daughters. The two were about the same age.
"Oh no, I'm being treated by my daughter," Meredith recalls thinking.
Through her cancer journey the two became close friends. Now, Schmeler tells Meredith that she has to stick around so she can give advice when her children are in high school.
Life after ovarian cancer treatment
In April 2009, Meredith's doctors told her she was cancer-free, and began another round of adjunct chemo. Now Meredith returns to MD Anderson every six months for her follow up appointments.
"Cancer is never very far from my mind. You want to be aware of it but you don't want to be bogged down by it," Meredith says. "You want to die living."
Her experience made her think of an old saying, "Keep your fork, there's pie."
"I've just always looked at life that way," she says. "I've got my pie coming, and I'm keeping my fork."
High-grade serous ovarian cancer is one of the cancers MD Anderson is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths. Learn more about our Breast and Ovarian Moon Shot.