On the morning of my birthday in December 2003, I looked into the mirror and thought to myself, "Damn, forty looks good on me!" Six months later I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
I had symptoms for nine months and never thought that it could be cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy left me overwhelmed and exhausted. I felt so alone.
The first time I spoke with another ovarian cancer survivor was when I called the SHARE helpline. I was thrilled to learn that there were long-term survivors of ovarian cancer, including advanced stages, and many women went back to work after completing treatment. I was filled with so much hope that by the end of the call I knew that I was going to get through treatment, too. I couldn't wait to volunteer and pass on a little hope to someone else.
I joined a support group at SHARE and later volunteered on the helpline. I have also attended educational programs and conferences. Connecting with other survivors and staying involved has helped me to reconnect to and regain trust in myself.
Then the cancer recurred twice with liver metastasis and I felt devastated. But, I also felt empowered because I had access to information that I needed to participate in making treatment decisions with my medical team. After three major surgeries, five different chemotherapy regimens and a clinical trial, I am currently enjoying my third remission and I feel great!
I don't have to have all the answers or know what the future holds and that's okay. No matter what happens -- whether this remission lasts forever or there's another recurrence out there with my name on it or the disease becomes a chronic condition -- I know that I have the tools to deal with it, and I am not alone.