Ovarian cancer survivor: I found hope at MD Anderson
If it wasn’t for my daughter’s dog, I might never have found out that I had ovarian cancer. And if it wasn’t for MD Anderson, I might not still be here today.
Here’s my story.
My ovarian cancer symptoms
I was walking my daughter’s 65-pound Rottweiler last May, when the dog suddenly jumped up and knocked me to the ground. The left side of my body was numb when I stood up, but I didn’t seem to be hurt, so I shook it off and kept going. Ten days later, I broke out in an excruciating rash in that same area. It was so painful that I went to an emergency room. I was diagnosed with shingles.
The ER doctor prescribed a pain reliever and an antiviral medication. It took eight weeks for the rash to disappear. After it was gone, I noticed a painful lump on the left side of my abdomen. I thought maybe I’d injured myself in the fall after all, so I found a surgeon in my network and made an appointment.
When I saw the surgeon a few days later, he said I probably had a hernia, but he’d set up a CT scan just to be sure. He called me a few hours after the scan and said I needed to come in right away for the results. I had no idea what was going on, but I did what he said.
The surgeon told me that I had bilateral ovarian cancer. My ovaries were huge on both sides. I asked him what I should do. He recommended getting my affairs in order. As big as my tumors were, he didn’t think any treatment could help me. That’s when I knew I had to get to MD Anderson.
My ovarian cancer diagnosis
I’m originally from Louisiana, but I’ve lived in Houston for a while now. And MD Anderson is considered the place to go for cancer treatment. Everyone knows someone who’s been treated there. So, I called and made an appointment. Dr. Jolyn Taylor saw me within a week. The first thing she did was perform her own scans to confirm my diagnosis.
It turned out that though my tumors were large, they hadn’t spread very much, so my ovarian cancer was only considered to be stage IIb. But I did have the high-grade serous kind, which is an aggressive, fast-growing form of the disease. I needed surgery right away.
My ovarian cancer treatment
Dr. Taylor performed the eight-hour surgery to remove my tumors on Sept. 11, 2018. The one on my left ovary was about the size of a softball, and the one on my right ovary was the size of a volleyball. In addition to my ovaries, she removed my fallopian tubes, my uterus, and 16 nearby lymph nodes. She also removed a fatty layer in the abdomen called the omentum, and a part of the peritoneum, a membrane in the abdominal cavity.
Amazingly, the cancer had not spread to any of the 16 lymph nodes Dr. Taylor removed. So three weeks after surgery, I started chemotherapy. I had six rounds of carboplatin and paclitaxel. They were administered by IV every two weeks. I finished my last round on Jan. 23, 2019. And other than nausea and hair loss, I haven’t had any major side effects.
There’s always hope
Before meeting Dr. Taylor, I didn’t think I would live much longer. But she assured me that there’s always hope. And here I am today, cancer-free.
I thank God every day for my daughter’s dog now. Every time I see her, I give that dog a bone. I thank God for MD Anderson, too. Because there is hope here. And without that, what do you have?