All Photos Courtesy of Jewel Figueras
After a fabulous family vacation in Mexico, I returned home with extreme stomach pain. Ultrasound in the emergency room revealed diverticulitis, but also a huge mass on my ovary. Two days later, an oncologist/gynecologist walked into my hospital room and announced that I had cancer. A week later, I was in surgery and a few weeks after that, I was completely devastated to learn that I was now a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer survivor and would be in the fight for the rest of my life. After my initial surgery, I also developed a blood clot in my leg and was started on blood thinners. Then came the dreaded chemotherapy treatments. Months later, I was pronounced NED and thought life would get back to normal. Boy, was I wrong! Six months after treatment and only a day after the end of the Ovarian Cancer National Conference in Washington, DC, I landed in the hospital with a brain bleed brought on by the blood thinners. Luckily, I ended up with no major damage to my brain.
Ten months after treatment, the Beast returned. Thank God for the never ending support of my family and friends. I couldn't have gotten through chemo again without them. Because I'm always full of surprises, I also developed clots in the middle of treatment, both in legs and lungs. Even though they scare the daylights out of me, I'm back on blood thinners. It seems that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Very early on and in an effort to understand why I was chosen, I underwent genetic counseling and testing. The genetics counseling was interesting. My first inclination was to say that I had NO family history of ovarian cancer. However, with the help of the counselor, I figured out that I truly didn’t know. My family, like many, really didn’t openly discuss medical issues and causes of death. I realized that I hadn’t a clue about the cause of death for many extended family members. I was no longer sure if I had family history and I needed to know if I carried the BRCA gene mutation. The tests came back negative.