Marie passed away in the summer of 2009 and is dearly missed. Her friends and family remain committed to this cause and carry on fundraising events in her memory.
My story begins in May of 2006. I had just turned 50 in April and my husband had given me a fantastic 50th birthday party. I was feeling great. I was walking about 4 times a week, going to the gym, eating healthy (except for my love of sweets), and always kept my weight under control. I had been pretty good about going for my annual check-ups but that year I had been extremely busy and it had been about a year and a half before I made an appointment. However, I had seen my primary care physician quite a few times in between complaining about abdominal bloating and discomfort. She told me I had classic symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and should go on the Internet, read about it and follow their instructions to keep it under control.
As part of my routine check-up, I had requested a CA125 blood test since my mother had died of ovarian cancer in September of 2001. The day after my check-up, I received a call saying my CA125 came back and it was high. After several tests, it was confirmed that I had Stage III Ovarian Cancer. When I met with my Primary Care Physician, she looked at me with the saddest eyes and said ìMarie, I am so sorry I missed this.î
I had a complete hysterectomy at the end of May. The surgeon told me everything went great and they were able to get most of the cancer but there were a few seedlings left that chemotherapy should take care of. My recovery went well. The support I received from friends and family was overwhelming. The visits, calls and gifts delivered to the house were endless. I never had time to feel sorry for myself. I was kept in the highest of spirits knowing that I had more love in my life than I ever could have imagined. My husband was by my side supporting me and saying the right things constantly. I know he was scared to death, but never once let me see that. He kept telling me that we would get through this and how proud he was of me. I was more worried about my kids than anything. I wanted them to know that I would be fine and would be there for them for many years. I also remember thinking I was not going to let this disease cheat me out of having the grandchildren I deserved to have some day.
Four weeks after my surgery, I began my 6 rounds of chemotherapy, which were the Taxol and Carboplatin. I was lucky enough to tolerate these drugs very well. I had very minor symptoms, except for the hair loss. Although I kept telling myself the hair loss was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it was very traumatic. I got myself a wig, some cotton caps and several scarves and became more creative than I would have given myself credit for. At the end of my 6 rounds of chemo, I was told the cancer was gone, but cancer is very unpredictable and we could only hope for the best. Which is what I did. I walked out of there thinking that this part of my life was over and I was a much better and stronger person for having gone through this. Seven months later, the cancer was back. I did the same six-treatment regime I had done the first time with the same result. Four months later, I had my second recurrence. I am currently being treated with Taxol and am on a list to participate in a clinical trial.
After my initial diagnosis, my oncologist recommended that I see a Genetic Oncologist and be tested. I tested positive for the BRCA2 gene. My siblings were also tested and my 2 sisters, brother and 22-year-old niece also tested positive. My 22 year-old daughter and 23 year-old-niece decided they do not want to be tested at this time but will take all of the precautions as if they do carry the gene.
I needed to have a way of dealing with everything that had happened to me in the last two years. Along with my sisters and close friends, we have formed the Sisters Against Ovarian Cancer in hopes that we can make a difference by raising awareness and also raising money for Ovarian Cancer research.
During both of my recurrences I worked full time and continued my life as usual. I try to talk to my kids more often and tell them how proud I am of them and how much I love them. I am also making an effort to let them make their own decisions and be who they are and not who other people think they should be. Both my kids have proven to be hard workers and every day I see them becoming more responsible and caring people. I did a great job raising them. When I think about my life and what my greatest talent and accomplishments are, it is being a great mother. I have given them the tools they need to make their own decisions and theyíll be fine.
My husband and I have always lived our lives for today. We vacation as much as we can. We have always gone out every Saturday night since the day we met and I consider this to be the greatest contribution to our marriage. We have lots of wonderful friends and family who continue to support me.
When I lie in bed at night the fear sometimes gets the better of me, but I think about the wonderful people in my life and I feel blessed. I miss my mother more than ever and wish I could have just a little time with her to tell her how sorry I am that I didnít realize what she had gone through. She is the strongest person I have ever known, but it took having this disease to make me realize it.
I continue to keep my optimism and faith that Iíll live a long time, even if it means being on chemo for the rest of my life. It certainly beats the alternative. Live every day like it might be your last and always appreciate even the smallest things in life.