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My journey with an Ovarian Cancer diagnosis began 12 years ago today. It is a journey that has changed my life and reaffirmed how precious life truly is and to cherish it daily.
I had just been to my Gynecologist six weeks earlier for my annual Pap/Pelvic exam and had received a clean report and believed I was clear for another 12 months. You see, my Doctor had never explained to me that Ovarian Cancer is not detected thru a Pap test and was never informed about the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. I began experiencing abdominal bloating and I sincerely thought it was because of weight gain so began an exercise workout program for losing weight. I was noticing that my clothes were not fitting properly and felt “poured” into everything. Then one day, on a Saturday, September 28, 2002, as I was hurrying around to leave for a Sunday School function, I tripped and twisted down our basement stairs. By Monday morning, I was experiencing abdominal pain with the bloating which I blamed on constipation. With getting no relief from what I thought was constipation and beginning to experience nausea I contacted my Doctor on Wednesday, October 2nd, and she brought me into the office for an exam and Trans-Vaginal Ultra Sound. That is when she noted the cyst on my Ovary and sent me over to the hospital for an X-Ray and followed the next day with a CT Scan of my pelvic/abdominal area. My General Surgeon was called in and all the different scenarios were explained to me and I was in surgery by Monday, October 7th. After my surgery I was informed of this dreaded diagnosis, Stage 2C, and my journey began.
I actually met with three different Oncology Doctors regarding my Ovarian Cancer diagnosis and was presented a treatment plan that was pretty much dittoed by all three. I decided on my Doctor and the University of Toledo Medical Center and that is where I received my chemotherapy treatments. I had received an overwhelming amount of literature, pamphlets, books and information about this cancer, the treatments and survival rates. And then one day, I closed my books, put everything away and turned it over to God. The “Big Picture” was overwhelming and we are only given today, so I prayed for the Grace that I would need to get me through each day and see me through this journey.
I completed my six rounds of Chemo over a nine week period and God was with me every step of the way. After my first round of chemo my blood count, CA 125, dropped to under 10 and it has never risen above to this date. I breezed thru my treatments with very little side effects, like nausea, but experienced some joint pain that sometimes accompanies with the chemo treatments. The support system I had with my family, friends and church was amazing and a real answer to my prayers. I faced this diagnosis with my two choices, I could curl up in a little ball in the corner and die, or I could face, deal and live with it--and I chose to live with it. Actually I was hoping for a whole different hair style when it was all done as I was told my new hair could come in darker and curlier. Well it didn’t work, I did not receive one “chemo curl” and was perfectly straight as before!
Forward 12 years--As I share with anyone who asks about my cancer diagnosis and how I am doing. I tell them that “everyday is truly a gift from God and nobody knows how many days they have on this earth as they are all numbered. Just be sure you are secure in where you are going to spend eternity and be thankful for everyday that you have“.
I feel so blessed that I have been a part of the “Let’s Talk it Ovar” support group for Gynecological Cancers and have met so many brave and amazing women who have and are going through this same journey. Also, on the Advisory Board of the “Ovarian Cancer Connection” where these amazing women have such a passion for this Disease. The mission of OCC is to raise awareness about Ovarian Cancer, educate the community on the early warning signs and support research which is vital for early detection and saving lives.
Through this journey I have learned not to ask, “why me” but “what” am I to learn from it. I know that God takes us through the storms of life and it is through these storms that we feel His presence, peace and comfort the most. I thank God for this journey He is taking me through as I know He loves me and is perfecting His will in my life.
Sandra D. Bricker, Author and Survivor
They call ovarian cancer a "silent killer." It didn't succeed in killing me, but it was certainly silent. I'd left my life in Los Angeles to become a caregiver to my mom in Florida until she passed away. Not long after I lost her -- while in a new place with no real friends yet -- I went to the doctor. Not so much because I knew I was sick, but because I was certain something wasn't right. When they discovered stage one uterine cancer, the doctor said there was nothing to worry about; it was very treatable.
Almost immediately after my first surgery, I was told I also had a very quiet (and growing) case of stage three ovarian cancer. If not for that "accidental" discovery, my story might not have had such a positive spin. I've been nine years clean now, and I try to do something to raise awareness and funds toward a cure, particularly during September (Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month). This year (2014), in honor of this spectacular group of warriors I met after moving to NW Ohio, I am holding a ten-day event on my Facebook reader page (9/20-9/30) where local and national celebrities will talk about the disease and about the work OCC is doing. I'll also share patient stories, educate readers about ovarian cancer and its symptoms, give away personal phone calls, autographed items, and CDs, and most importantly I hope to inspire some donations toward OCC's efforts.
Giving back any way I can is one of my greatest missions in life. We need to cure this disease before we lose any more magnificent women. At the very least, we need to find a reliable diagnostic tool for early detection.
Bonnie Nellett; Wife Mother, Mimi
They say the symptoms of ovarian cancer “whisper” so women should listen to what their bodies “say.” In my Mom, Bonnie Nellett’s case, it wasn’t so much the symptoms that were “whispering” but a nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right. That feeling led to a series of doctors’ appointments, tests and procedures, which ultimately revealed the diagnosis of stage 3A ovarian cancer in February 2002.
The following weeks, months and years were filled with a total abdominal hysterectomy, 61 chemotherapy treatments, 2 bouts of hair loss and several extended leaves of absence from her job. Mom faced all of these challenges with grace, courage and dignity. We never heard her complain or ask “why me?” even when she was feeling her worst. She was always so strong for those around her, never failing to be there when others needed her. In January 2006, Mom made the brave decision to pursue no further treatment as she had learned the cancer had spread significantly. She then quickly signed up with Hospice of Northwest Ohio.
For the next four months Mom lived her life to the fullest: she endlessly enjoyed her four grandchildren(who will forever remember her as Mimi), she and Dad took a final trip to Florida(it wasn’t quite Aruba, but close enough!), she got to see Anne Murray in concert and then meet her backstage, she made a beautiful video for her children and grandchildren with special messages for each one, and finally, she got to see her only daughter(that’s me!) get married! My wedding day was Mom’s final gift to me and the entire family. She was so happy that day, despite not feeling very well. It was a day we will never forget! Mom passed away just six days after the wedding on April 13th 2006.
My Mom will never cease to be my hero and my angel. She taught me how to “fight like a girl”!! I carry on her legacy and her never ending desire to fight this disease in my work with the Ovarian Cancer Connection of Northwest Ohio. In her honor and memory I will continue the fight!
Thanks for sharing my story,
Angie Nellett Rumer
On September 17, my grandmother, Rita Sirilo turned 80. It was a fitting coincidence that this special occasion fell on the same week as the OCC of NW Ohio & SE Michigan’s Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer was held. First diagnosed in 1979, with stage three ovarian cancer, my grandmother Rita, has fought the whispering illness for 30 years.
The chance to celebrate both her monumental birthday and her survival inspired our family and friends to not only come together from all points of Ohio and Michigan, but fly in from Florida, Boston and California to join team "Happy Birthday Rita."
This birthday was more than cake and ice cream, but an opportunity to bring awareness of this disease to those who pledged us to walk. Rita has inspired our family and other members of the Ovarian Cancer community with her warmth, constant selflessness and radiating optimism. Thank you to those who celebrated with us, sang happy birthday to her and made this occasion so special.
Mom's Three Things - With Love from Aubry
Before Lord Jesus took you And led you through the gates There were three things you told me; the first involved your faith.
You never stopped believing With every pain you trusted more All your physical strength was leaving But your heart, it remained so sure.
You told me not to worry about you You knew right where you were going Heaven was opening its doors for you Your acceptance was overflowing.
The second thing you told me Was unnecessary to say the least I'd heard it every day of my life Though this final time, it gave me peace.
You told me that you loved me Through your suffering you managed a smile I said "I love you too, Mom" And it was clear then our meeting was final.
The last thing you told me Was in true Karen style Nothing less could have been expected From the angel who never ceased to smile.
It had to do with fun Your favorite thing in the world You'd only ever be saddened If I sat around and mourned.
Those three final things Faith, love and fun Summed up your life so perfectly And God decided your work on earth was done.
Then the blue light began to flash And the doctors, they rushed in I never uttered the word "goodbye" I do believe it would have been a sin Because I will see you soon, Mom Though till then, I'll do as you have done I'll share my faith; I'll spread my love, And all the while, I'll be having fun.
Golfers Tee-Off For Teal
Annual Golf Outing
This past June, golfers hit the course to raise money to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and hopefully one day a cure. The Ovarian Cancer Connection’s Annual Karen Creque Golf Outing . Golfers from 3 states, and as far as 5 hours away, teed off for teal! This year's event was held at the Stone Ridge Golf Course in Bowling Green, Ohio.
The outing holds a special place in heart of the Creque family and friends. In May of 1998, Karen Creque was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She was not going to stop living because of the disease. She was determined to fight. It was that determination that allowed her family and friends the pleasure of having her in their lives for 7 years after her initial diagnosis. During this time, she shared her experiences with others battling cancer hoping to calm their fears and sharing her hope.
Karen was a very special wife, mother, Mimi, sister, aunt, and friend. Her children were grown, and had started their own families. She finally had time for herself again. This newfound time was spent on the three Gs – grandchildren, gardening, and golf. In the midst of her battle with ovarian cancer and countless chemotherapy treatments, she would often think about scheduling her treatments so that she could feel good enough to golf with her friends and family. She had a passion for the sport and loved to be out on the golf course.
Just 10 days before she was admitted to in-patient care at Hospice of Northwest Ohio, and 21 days before her death, she shared her last round of golf with me, her daughter. It is a day that I will treasure forever. My mom taught me to be a friend and to have a caring heart for everyone. She would share people’s happiness and be there for them during their sadness. She was always supportive and showed them that she cared by doing the little things, even when she was facing her own adversity.
Whether the golfers knew Karen, or were golfing in honor or memory of a special woman in their own lives, the event brought everyone together for a common cause. Over twenty volunteers made the outing a reality and assisted with registration, were hot dog helpers, event photographers, raffle sellers, and more! We could not have done it without each of them.
Next time you hit the greens - think teal, and take a swing at ovarian cancer!
My aunt is my hero. A second mom to me all my life, she’s always been there for me, providing guidance and unconditional love. She’s hardworking, kind-hearted, and witty.
My aunt is Georgia Meyers, and she has ovarian cancer. It’s a fact I’ve come to accept. Two long years of denial brought me to where I am today: in full acceptance and understanding of her cancer.
I hate cancer. I truly do. It’s horrible, and it can tear lives apart. However, cancer can be a mixed blessing, and ultimately this silent killer can also save lives. I’m not talking about a physical restoration of lives, but rather an emotional one. I’m also not just talking about the cancer patients themselves, but also those around them, the people that love and care for them. Cancer doesn’t just affect one person; it changes a community.
I remember the first Christmas we celebrated after we found out my aunt had cancer. The tension in the house was high. Maybe fear had a part in all of the tension; fear that this was our last Christmas together. Or maybe it was anger, a violent rage against this horrible killer. Or perhaps it was complete shock and disbelief. After all, why would such a good person be punished with this cruelty? I take back the word punished, and rather say affected. I can’t judge how a cancer patient feels about the word punishment. Nonetheless, I can say as a person with a relative affected with it that cancer is an odd thing. Yes, I did have to watch my aunt struggle and suffer. I watched her bruise and bleed, watched her form blisters and calluses. And, yes, all of that hurt more than any words can express.
But on the other hand, I watched my aunt grow. I watched her learn to appreciate life more. I watched her express joy in the small things. And I also watched as she and I grew closer, our bond stronger than ever. We grew into a more mature relationship of Drumsticks and chatting around her kitchen table for hours. The most important thing I’ve seen throughout all of this is my love and respect for her grow more and more every day. She took me on a spa day for my sixteenth birthday, and that was one of the best days of my life. It was just me and her all day together sharing time and memories together.
With cancer it’s not just appreciation of the patient that grows, but also appreciation of life. Cancer forces you to realize that life is short and unpredictable beyond belief. I was six when my grandma died of ovarian cancer. I never saw it coming. This may have been due in part to the fact that I was six and oblivious to what was going on half the time. Or it may have just been ignorance about cancer. My grandma was perfectly healthy when cancer overtook her. Looking back on that, I realize that life has to be appreciated, for you never know what could happen next.
Life has its sorrows and pains, but maybe those are just a way to bring us closer to other people and ourselves. I’m not trying to say that cancer’s some miracle from God that we should praise. I’m saying evaluate your own life. Has cancer changed you at all? I’m at a high risk for ovarian cancer, and perhaps I should be scared, but I’m not. By watching my aunt and thinking of my grandma, I’ve learned to accept things as they come. Cancer may have broken some hearts, but it also has restored some.
We would like to take this day to honor one of our very special survivors.
As I was searching for inspiration about what to say about this survivor, I remembered her smiling face from our very first meeting – obviously as beautiful inside as she was outside. I remembered the hats she wore – a baseball cap with a big flower on the front. I’ve heard many people comment on the way her smile and the flower on her hat would cause them to smile. Then I started looking through some of our OCC pictures from past events. I came across a picture from our first walk in 2005. There was a picture of our survivors starting the walk holding their “Ovarian Cancer” banner. This particular survivor was pointing the way, leading the way over the rough terrain. She wasn’t walking ahead of or behind the other survivors; she was walking with them shoulder to shoulder. In my own mind, I think if ovarian cancer was smart, it would know to run from those women! The women were partners, a team – each one had a job. I found my inspiration – Ellen’s job was to lead the way.
In many aspects, Ellen has led the way for the OCC. I would like to share a few ways in which she has done this.
During our first year when we had no money and needed free advertising, free publicity, and anything else we could get for free, Buckeye Cablesystem and BCSN came our way – because Ellen led the way.
During our second year, when we had a few dollars to spend, but didn’t want to spend it all, Buckeye Cablesystem and BCSN were still there and The Blade and Lamar came our way – because Ellen led the way.
During this year, our third year, when we had a few more dollars to spend, but wanted to save as much as we could to donate to ovarian cancer research in 2008, Buckeye Cablesystem, BCSN, The Blade, and Lamar were still there, willing to help us raise awareness about ovarian cancer and helping us keep as much money as we could in our account to donate to research – because Ellen led the way.
In one instance, Ellen called her friends at Buckeye Cablesystem to let them know of a special dale on QVC that would donate all proceeds to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund – her friends told her they were already aware of it and were working on something. They also let her know this was the first time they knew about something to do with ovarian cancer before Ellen had told them. Why? Because Ellen led the way.
It has been a privilege and an honor to get to know Ellen and to work with her to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. I am amazed at her style and grace as she lives with ovarian cancer. The OCC has been blessed to have Ellen in many ways – we are lucky. Ellen, thank you for leading the way.
I, Ashlee Ducat, became involved with the Ovarian Cancer Connection in July of 2010 after my mother passed away from ovarian cancer in October 2009. When I first became involved it was sort of a shock. I had talked to Gini in the past when I was seeking information about ovarian cancer when my mother was diagnosed. I wrote an email requesting any information I could get my hands on because I knew nothing about ovarian cancer yet, I wanted to help my mom. When the information came it sat on the counter due to mom’s condition. When I received a phone call 2 weeks after receiving the information from Gini, I had to sadly tell her my mom passed away. She was very comforting and sincere. She told me I was not alone; that others had lost their mothers too and if I wanted to talk with someone who shared a similar situation she would connect me. At my mother’s memorial service, I request in lieu of flowers that guests donate to National Ovarian Connection (which is what we were at the time). Between November and June, I tried to gain as much knowledge as I could about the disease and realized that the only reason I knew nothing about it because it was not advertized. It was not out in the media like breast cancer. So in May, I contacted Gini again and asked her about the monthly meeting. When I walked into Panera, I was not sure what to expect. At this time, the group was gearing up for the walk. Knowing about nothing that was going on, I just jumped in to help where ever I could. The group was open to new suggestions and to the newcomer. Gini gave me some wonderful things to read and I was able to talk to survivors and to those who had lost a loved on. It was so comforting to know that I was not alone and I could help others by getting the word out there. From then on, I helped out with what ever I could.
In January when we official became the Ovarian Cancer Connection, I was thrilled with our goals and mission, to help support education and that is was local. In February, I became the Secretary and it has been such a blast. The group works so well together that it does not seem like an obligation but rather just lending a helping hand. While there is so much to do to prepare for our busy season, it has been a great start.
I realized how important that people, both males and females, hear about ovarian cancer. In 2009, I knew the name but nothing else. My mother, Lala Hetrick, mysteriously became ill in June. We just thought it was a bad cold. But as time when on, she was not getting better. Matter a fact she was getting worse. What started with sniffles and sneezes, turned into abdominal bloating, lack of hunger, a constant metallic taste in her mouth, fatigue, and nose bleeds. Although nose bleeds are not a sign of ovarian cancer, without them, she would have never been diagnosed. Mom (Lala) has three really bad nose bleeds in June and July 2009. Two of which, sent us to ER. One the third ER trip, the ER sent her to see Dr. Jingle (over by St. Luke’s Hospital) to get her nose packed. Without thinking to much of it, we just went on with our normal routine. Living in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the time, it was hard to hear from the other side of a phone that your mother seems to be getting sicker rather than better. I came home as often as I could to help out and to go to appointments and such.
However, like most diseases, another symptom came forth; a cough that simply would not go away. Mom has seen her family physician which gave her a cough syrup to help her sleep since the coughing had gotten so bad. When the cough syrup did not seem to help he recommended that she get a CT since previous X-rays had shown nothing. Waiting for the CT to be scheduled and the date to arrive, Mom noticed a lump on the side of her throat. Quickly she called Dr. Jingle. Dr. Jingle added to the existing CT, which was done on a Thursday. Friday morning we got a call from Dr. Jingle wanting to see Mom over his lunch hour. He told us that the report on Mom’s CT was not even done yet but he went early to the hospital to look over the CT scans himself. This was the first round of the bad news there were abnormalities within her body. He took a biopsy while we were there of the abnormality on her neck and said we should have the results either Monday or Tuesday of the following week. The weekend was the hardest; just to sit and wait. Meanwhile, I gained employment with a school district close to home. It was a relief to know I could get to her within an hour if I had to.
Monday morning came, and the second round of bad news: CANCER. Dr. Jingle did not specify what type but that he would set us up with a colleague of his, Dr. Mowat, an Oncologist. By Thursday, my mother, stepdad and I were sitting in Dr. Mowat’s office waiting to hear what type of cancer it was. Ovarian Cancer! Because of Mom’s condition, he admitted her to Flower Hospital right away. Over the next week, bad news seemed to flood us. Never having time to fully grasp the disease, even understand, or a treatment schedule, Mom just kept slipping away. She finally passed away on Thursday October 22, 2009 after knowing a little over a week she had cancer.
Even though, I miss her dearly, I was determined to help others. No one should have to go through missing their best friend because of this disease. Its heart breaking to think that so many women suffer and pass way from ovarian cancer, yet it is not talked about nor heard about very much. That’s the mission of Ovarian Cancer Connection, to make the symptoms known and to help educate everyone so no one has to loose their best friend to ovarian cancer.