Monique’s StoryI was diagnosed on August 17, 2013 with stage 3C ovarian cancer. I was 44 years old.
For at least six to seven months prior to being diagnosed, I had been experiencing many of the “classic” symptoms of ovarian cancer. It started with the digestion of foods that I ate—any food. No matter what I ate, I would experience diarrhea every day. I went to my primary care physician and he tested my bowels but found nothing wrong. I was buying anti-diarrhea medicine every week.
In January of 2013, I began having bladder spasms. They were few and far between, but when they came, they were violently painful. My gynecologist treated me for at least 2 UTI’s that I actually tested negative for, stating that maybe the infections were in the beginning stages and did not yet show up on the tests. Because I had bladder surgery the year prior (in August of 2012), my gynecologist sent me back to the surgeon that performed my bladder surgery. They could not find anything wrong.
I also had a very sporadic menstrual cycle. I did not have my period for two months and then I would bleed for seven weeks. My doctor told me that I was bleeding so much because I had not bled in those two months. She put me on a low dose birth control pill to try and regulate my cycles. I took them for three months but it was never regulated.
In March of 2013, I began to notice my belly area bloating all the time. No matter what time of the month it was, I was bloated. That same month I began to experience pain in my lower abdominal area. I even took a trip to the ER, only to have them tell me that they could not find anything wrong. I remember clearly that day they did a CT scan—only it was of my gall bladder area and not my uterus.
I continued to visit my OBGYN on several more occasions because at this point the diarrhea was out of control. I did not even want to eat. I had lost about 25 pounds because I could not hold onto anything I ate.
The weekend after a visit to the urogynecologist was probably the worse one ever. I was in bed with severe pain in my abdominal all weekend. That Monday morning I called and asked if I could get an appointment with the person I had been seeing. She was not available and I saw someone else. This person actually considered the fact that my mother died at age 33 of ovarian cancer and that I had not had an ultrasound in over 5 years. An ultrasound was ordered for me that very same day. This doctor told me within two days that I probably had an advanced stage of ovarian cancer and that I would likely need surgery to remove my very large tumor the very next week.
The following week I met the person that would save my life—my surgeon. He determined that the tumor was too large to remove. I started chemotherapy that week in order to shrink the tumor so that it could to be removed. I underwent three rounds of aggressive chemo, once every three weeks. On November 4, 2013, I had a full hysterectomy and removal of the tumor that tried to destroy me. I started chemo again within a month of surgery, which included five more rounds of aggressive chemo, once every three weeks. I had my last session on February 21, 2014.
My advice to other women is to listen to your body. Stay persistent with doctors when you know that there is something wrong. Do not let them turn you away or tell you they cannot find anything wrong, even when you know there is a problem. Be your own advocate and demand an ultrasound if you suspect cancer.
My advice to medical professionals is to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. We know that they mirror a lot of other illnesses, but do not be too quick to rule it out. I was told I had gluten sensitivity, urinary tract infections, and that I was pre-menopausal. None of these were actually true. Consider ovarian cancer early!