September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. We are dedicating our Fridays for the month of September to profiling fellow Ovarian Cancer Grads and Students.
Meet Ovarian Cancer Grad, Donna Rosin!
Name: Donna Rosin
Age Enrolled: 44
Major: Ovarian Cancer, Stage 3C
Primary symptoms you had experienced prior to diagnosis: I did not have any OVCA symptoms. No bloating, no feeling full, no change in bowel or bladder, no pain....none of the "typical" warning signs. I was young, "healthy", exercising and taking care of my family! What I did have was 2 enlarged lymph nodes located in my groin. Being a nurse, I knew this was a common area for lymph nodes. Looking back, I would also say that I was very tired...however, I assumed this was due to my busy life...every mother I knew was tired.
Symptoms that led you to go to the doctor: My husband encouraged me to see the doctor who promptly told me that he sees swollen nodes all the time, and that 1 in 1000 nodes end up to be something serious. I was not worried and went to have the nodes removed. The nodes were metastatic ovarian cancer and my life was turned up side down.
Courses Completed: I had surgery and the confirmation of stage 3C OVCA. I was in the hospital for 10 days with complications and returned home weak and thin. Within one month I started a rigorous protocol of intravenous and intra peritoneal chemotherapy for 6 months. I was determined to push through this challenging time and find myself cancer free at the end. My cancer story did not end there. Eleven months after frontline treatment my labs started indicating that the cancer was back and I started chemotherapy again. I spent the next 3 years receiving many different treatments to rid myself of persistent disease. One chemo would work and then stop working. Or, after a short break off chemo, the cancer would return. It was not until I had a second surgery to removed an involved lymph node followed by more chemo that I have had my longest break. I had nine different chemotherapies, two bald heads, two surgeries and now it has been 2 years without treatment. I am healthy and I am realistic about my health. I live test-to-test and pray my good health continues.
What you’d like other women (and men) to know about Ovarian Cancer: In the last 6 years the majority of women I have met with OVCA have been diagnosed stage 3 or 4. The symptoms are so vague that they often get overlooked. It is so critical that women and health care professionals put OVCA high on the list of possible problems when women present to them. I want people to know that OVCA is a chronic disease for some women. We live "with" our cancer and we manage when necessary. It is critical to see a gyn-oncologist when diagnosed.
Any helpful tips or tricks for other women navigating a diagnosis? Utilize the support of family and friends. When faced with cancer, we have to surrender to many things to move forward facing surgery and treatment. It is important to put ourselves first to manage these challenges. This is not easy for anyone, but so necessary to maintain energy and stamina for the grueling protocol. It is also invaluable to find the support of others with ovca. WE understand the nuances of this disease. I have had the support and learned so much from many incredibly brave, strong, wise and resilient women.
Anything you wished you knew prior to diagnosis? Cancer was never a worry for me.
Did you learn anything about yourself? As I think about the last six years, my life has come into incredible focus. My cancer is just one part of my good life. I am present in my life events big and small. I constantly strive for balance in all areas of my life. This is not easy, it is necessary. I truly don't think of myself as a "cancer grad"....because I may need to face that school again. I am not a survivor...I am surviving. I am surviving life with ALL the uncertainty is possesses, not just cancer. So.... I may need to go back to "school" and I will hope that all I have learned will carry me again to another graduation!!