I am the fourth woman on my street to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the last 15 years—and there are only 41 houses on my street.
The area of Missouri I live in, about 90 miles south of St. Louis, is known by locals to be a “cancer cluster” because of the underground lead mines in the area. I was aware of my risk for cancer, which was why I chose to undergo an ultrasound during my annual physical exam in 2008 even though I had no symptoms.
That same day [of the exam], my doctors told me I had stage III ovarian cancer. I was given a year to live, or less. After I was diagnosed, I felt many things. I felt overwhelmed. I felt helpless. Most of all, I felt afraid.
It took me six weeks to find an ovarian cancer specialist, it being so rural where I live. I had massive surgery in 2009, followed by three courses of chemotherapy. I was too weak to work and had to leave my job.
I’m blessed to have family close by—my two children and two granddaughters all live within 5 miles of me. Still, there aren’t too many resources near where I live, financially or emotionally. You’re isolated out here. You’ve got this ticking time bomb set in your lap that you can’t get rid of, and you don’t know what to do.
I found CancerCare through brochures sent to me by the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation. I called CancerCare’s helpline and was connected to a social worker. She was very sympathetic and compassionate, and registered me for a weekly telephone support group for people with ovarian cancer. It was extremely helpful to talk to people who had walked the path I was on.
Since then, I have kept in constant touch with CancerCare. It is so helpful to have someone to talk to, someone to listen to you when you’re in that ‘panic state.’ I do some work with the American Cancer Society and always recommend CancerCare to anyone I talk to. Everyone, especially folks in rural areas, should know that CancerCare can help.