Community Member Spotlight: Jen
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In recognition, AdvancedOvarianCancer.net is highlighting the stories and experiences of community members living with ovarian cancer. Jen's story with ovarian cancer began in July 2020 after a trip to the emergency hospital. She has since undergone surgery, received chemotherapy, and started a PARP inhibitor to treat her cancer.
Empowered to share her story and connect with others, Jen launched her blog, Jenesis, to talk about her experiences. August 6, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of Jenesis and her mission to blog every day since learning about her ovarian cancer.
Get to know Jen and her story...
A shocking, unexpected diagnosis
I was diagnosed, unofficially, with ovarian cancer in July 2020 after going to the emergency department of my local hospital. Following surgery in August 2020 and the analysis of my tumors, my oncology team confirmed this diagnosis in September 2020, indicating that I had stage 3c high-grade serous carcinoma.
From surgery to chemotherapy to a PARP inhibitor
In August 2020, I had a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix), bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes), and omentectomy (removal of the omentum, an apron of fat that covers the internal organs). Between October 2020 and January 2021, I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy with the drugs CARBOplatin and PACLitaxel. In February 2021, I began taking olaparib (marketed under the name Lynparza). It is a tumor-suppressing drug known as a PARP inhibitor.
Finding helpful, reliable ovarian cancer information
While recovering in hospital from my surgery, the head nurse of the cancer center visited me to give me a booklet about chemotherapy and to tell me about a video that The Ottawa Hospital produced to help patients understand the treatment. These resources were very helpful. Also, I recently found a coach through the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, which has been beneficial.
My advice to anyone newly diagnosed
My advice to someone diagnosed with ovarian cancer is to remember these two things: (1) take things one day at a time, and (2) do not die while you are yet alive.
The blog posts I've linked below elaborate on both themes:
Defining my advocacy 'why'
A week after I was unofficially diagnosed with ovarian cancer and the day I began a leave of absence from my job to deal with the disease, I launched a blog called Jenesis. I have been publishing a post every day since then, including weekends and holidays. It has proven to be a fantastic way for me to work through my feelings about ovarian cancer and many other subjects, an efficient means of keeping hundreds of people apprised of my treatment and health, and a surprisingly effective instrument for motivating and inspiring other people.
Motivation behind my blog, Jenesis
I created Jenesis because I felt bad that my 300+ employees would suddenly lose me from their lives. I was confident that I could keep my family and close friends up-to-date on my health developments, but I knew that my staff members were not likely to stay in touch, out of fear that they might be bothering me if they reached out for information. While it does take a considerable amount of time to write, edit, design, and post daily articles to my blog, not to mention responding to all the feedback, sharing information in this way is ultimately more efficient. My family, friends, employees, past acquaintances, and new associates can read my posts and stay abreast of my health without having to ask me for an update.
In writing Jenesis, I took inspiration from a previous blog that I maintained for years called Café Jen, which focused on success at work. Over the nine years I wrote that blog, I published more than 600 posts. This experience made me comfortable with the format of a blog and with sharing information about myself.
Lessons from sharing my story
Over the past year of writing Jenesis posts, I've learned that many people are inspired by stories of hope, positivity, and generosity in the face of what might otherwise be a sad and scary circumstance, that is, diagnosis with a life-threatening illness.
I've learned that the more I talk about subjects that some may think are taboo--such as cancer, hysterectomy, mastectomy--the less these subjects scare me. They're a part of so many people's lives.
I've learned that the more open and vulnerable I am, the more open and vulnerable others are with me. For example, when I shared that I am considering having a preventive bilateral mastectomy because I have a faulty BRCA2 gene, a stranger reached out to tell me that she had made the same decision and provided very helpful advice.
I've learned that I have much to contribute beyond a discussion of illness and treatment. While I don't hide my cancer, I also don't dwell on it--covering all sorts of subjects on which I want to leave a legacy.
Read more about Jen's journey in her blog, Jenesis.
What stage were you diagnosed with?