As one of the top five causes of death among women, ovarian cancer affects well over 20,000 individuals each year. The stories of survivors provide encouragement and hope for victims who are just starting the battle. A recent story published by the Cancer Treatment Centers of America highlighted the ongoing journey of a woman named Christine.
Christine’s story started in 2010. At the young age of 30, she noticed sharp right-sided pains that persisted. It was the middle of winter. When the pain worsened at the same time an impending snowstorm threatened her traveling abilities, Christine reached out to a friend of hers who was an emergency room doctor. Her friend encouraged her to visit the ER immediately before the snowstorm hit. She followed his advice, and the ER doctors took biopsy samples to see if her symptoms were related to something other than appendicitis. The tests showed that she had ovarian cancer. Christine was shocked since none of her older family members had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As a homemaker and mother, Christine was terrified about the prospect of not being able to care for her family. Her youngest child was still nursing.
Christine and her husband contacted several oncology experts in other parts of the United States. They were determined to find the best treatment options for her. Christine’s oncologist suggested a combination chemotherapy treatment, which included three rounds over the course of a few months. Christine said that the experience was physically and mentally challenging. After she had surgery to remove both ovaries, her hormones shifted and sent her into early menopause. The effects of menopause are challenging even for the healthiest of women, and Christine also had to face sickness, hair loss and many other negative effects from chemotherapy. Her challenges were amplified by having to care for her young children.
Christine and her husband thought that the initial treatments worked. However, they received devastating news at her followup appointment that her cancer had returned. Fortunately, there was a silver lining when the doctor explained that the cancer was a localized tumor. The doctor surgically removed the tumor and ordered several additional rounds of chemotherapy. When Christine went to her post-operative appointment, the doctor said that a new tumor was growing. The tumor was growing fast enough that it was easy to palpate, and the doctor compounded the devastating news when he said that Christine was resistant to the recent chemotherapy. She was told that she had about a month to live and was instructed to get her affairs in order. Although Christine was ready to give up, her husband and children helped her find the strength to keep going.
Christine tried another type of chemotherapy and completed three rounds. To her surprise, the treatments were successful. The tumors shrunk, and they were surgically removed when they reached a certain size. With that surgery, the doctors took an aggressive approach and removed several parts of Christine’s colon. They carefully examined nearby areas and removed any tissue that looked problematic. Her doctor recommended radiation therapy after the surgery. When Christine went back for a followup appointment, she was amazed to hear about her cancer-free scans. While she could celebrate being in remission, she still had to face the effects of what she had been through. She fought multiple infections with a weakened immune system, and there was daily pain to deal with because of the surgeries.
A True Warrior
Two years passed, and Christine found out that her cancer was back. It was in her liver. Since it was localized, she had surgery to remove the affected portion of her liver. Additional tumors grew in the remaining part of her liver, and the doctors successfully performed a high-risk surgery to remove them. Unfortunately, Christine’s surgical followup appointment showed that there were new tumors. They had spread to her lymph nodes this time. Again, the doctors told her that she was going to die. However, she was not ready to give up.
When Christine and her husband went to Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Philadelphia location, the oncology experts there compared her biopsies and genetic information to several matching profiles. Many of the people with similar profiles had responded positively to a targeted cancer therapy. It was a daily oral medication. Christine has been taking it for three years, and she is living a much happier life today. Although she visits her doctor regularly, her scans have not showed any hints of cancer. Christine wanted to share her story to give other women the hope that she gained during the times when she was facing the bleakest outcome.