Advocate Spotlight: ShaRhonda
AdvancedOvarianCancer.net shares the stories and experiences of people living with ovarian cancer. We are highlighting the story of our advocate ShaRhonda who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May 2020. ShaRhonda's diagnosis came as a complete shock and encourages us to give ourselves permission to feel our emotions.
This is ShaRhonda’s story...
ShaRhonda's diagnosis story
I received the diagnosis of ovarian cancer in May 2020. Yes, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also received the news over the phone, merely 45 minutes after having a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis.
My diagnosis came unexpectedly; I have no family history of any form of cancer so honestly, it was not anywhere on my radar. When I received the news, it was like a whirlwind of events that happened afterward. I had, “debulking surgery” and a total abdominal hysterectomy was performed. After the surgery, I was told that it was borderline and there was mucus everywhere. The oncologist was unable to tell me what the prognosis was.
However, a week later the pathology came back and I was referred to MD Anderson for a second opinion. There I met with another gynecological oncologist and a GI surgeon. The verdict: Stage II Mucinous Carcinoma, a rare form of ovarian cancer.
Treatment options and decisions
My treatment plan was pretty odd, to me, at least. I received six cycles of chemotherapy but the regimen used is not one that is typically used for ovarian cancer. I was prescribed Folfox 6 modified. I completed my treatment at a local oncology clinic, instead of at MD Anderson which is 4 hours away. Folfox is mostly used for GI/colorectal cancers. I had two chemotherapy drugs, one that infused for 2 hours at the clinic and the other 46 hours at home. I didn’t even know chemotherapy being infused at home was a thing.
After I completed the six cycles over the course of four months (the cycles were every 2 weeks). I returned back to MD Anderson where a HIPEC surgery was completed. HIPEC stands for Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy. Basically, the surgeon manually removes all small tumors and mucus from the abdomen and pelvis area and then hot chemotherapy is inserted into the abdomen. I am not taking any medications now that I have completed the treatment.
Words of encouragement to those newly diagnosed
My one piece of advice would be to give yourself permission to feel your emotions. In the beginning, I told myself that I would not cry. I remember telling my husband, I am not crying and I am not doubting myself. When I think about it now, that was the right attitude but the wrong execution.
When you start telling people about your diagnosis you will experience so many opinions that it honestly becomes too much. Processing your feelings is so important. Give yourself time to go through the five stages of grief if you have to. Be angry, cry, be sad, deny, bargain if you have to, then finally comes the acceptance. I think eventually I was able to process my feelings and it took a long time but it is doable. Feel and do not allow anyone to dictate your feelings.
A love for reading
A fun fact about me is that I am a HUGE reader. In a year, I usually read well over 250 books. I am an introvert at my baseline so reading is such a fun escape for me. I have a bookstagram account on Instagram where I review books. It’s such a neat community!
What stage were you diagnosed with?