Ovarian Cancer Grad- Sherry
Name: Sherry Wang
Age at Enrollment: 23
Major: Ovarian Cancer, Stage 2b
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis?
I had been having symptoms for up to a year before my diagnosis. Abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, strange appetite, changes in bowel movements. In February of 2016, my abdominal pain became so severe that I went to my OBGYN and requested a transvaginal ultrasound. My ultrasound was completely clear. My pain went away, but by September of 2016, my pain became the worst I had ever felt. I had an exploratory surgery, which led to 6 months of misdiagnoses because I was “too young” for cancer. 3 surgeries later, on February 15, 2017, they did a biopsy of the 15 cm mass on my right ovary. That’s when I was diagnosed: Ovarian cancer, endometrioid adenocarcinoma, stage 2b.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? Extreme abdominal pain and bloating were my main symptoms. I was a 23-year-old who binge drank, and ate poorly. I was always on the go, and I attributed my symptoms to my non-stop lifestyle.
Courses completed: In a span of one year, I endured 3 surgeries, 65 days of wearing an abdominal drain, and 17 weekly rounds of chemo. I suffered a great deal.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you get through it/them? Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? My hardest moments always came when I was in physical pain. It is so hard to feel positive when you aren’t feeling well. Suffering is the loneliest feeling in the entire world. Chemo was relatively easy during the first half, but the second half really kicked my ass. On days where I felt pity, I always made a list of all the things I was grateful for. Cold caps to save my hair, my amazing support system, health insurance etc. When you are drowning in self-pity, joy, and gratitude are the only things that will pull you out of the void. Things could always be better, but they could always be worse.
During surgery and chemo, I also held on the idea of permeance. The idea that nothing lasts forever. Pain will eventually end, and everything heals. The body heals, the heart heals, the mind heals, the soul heals.
Four weeks after my last round of chemo, I was declared NED- No evidence of disease. My oncologist told me that I had a complete response to chemo. It has been 9 weeks since my last chemo, and I feel better than ever. The suffering and heartache I endured, feel like a different life. My body is getting stronger every day. My heart is exploding with joy. My soul is relearning who am I.
What did you know about ovarian cancer prior to your diagnosis? I knew of ovarian cancer from Diem Brown. I knew that it was lethal and that it was silent.
What do you wish more people knew or understood about Ovarian Cancer? I wish that more people understood how dangerous OVCA is. That is has a frighteningly high recurrence rate, and that there is NO FORMAL DIAGNOSTIC TEST. A Pap smear tests for cervical cancer, not ovarian. Because of this, you have to stay extra vigilant. If you feel off, ask your doctor for a transvaginal ultrasound. If you still feel off, ask them for a CA-125.
How did your family and friends respond? My friends and family are wonderful. Sometimes I think I have the best support system in the entire world. They are so special to me.
How did/do you find joy during this experience?
Cancer was a rebirth for me. It brought me back down to my soul. Before my diagnosis, I was on a train ride to destruction. I cared about all the wrong things and surrounded myself with people who were toxic to my soul.
After my diagnosis, I learned to simplify and purify my life. I learned how to listen to my gut. If someone’s presence made me feel negative, I spent less time with them. I completely stopped drinking. I started to listen to my soul and became acutely aware of people and things that brought me joy, and people and things that brought my anxiety. In my opinion, anxiety is the universe’s way of telling you that something or someone is not meant for you.
I started to really appreciate the little things- dinner with my friends, a beautiful day. After weeks of being bedridden, I appreciate every day that I am able to walk. During chemo, I bought a bike. It changed my life. Two weeks after my last chemo, I rode 25 miles for cancer research. It was difficult but symbolic. When I crossed that finish line, I left a years worth of pain and suffering behind me.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it?
I learned that I am much more resilient than I ever thought. I learned that my calling in this world is to take from this experience and use it to guide others.