Wednesday, September 12, 2012

OVCA - Treatment and My 2 Cents

The day I was diagnosed, I was told that I had to have a hysterectomy and then would need six rounds of chemotherapy. As a relatively young woman, and one who had not yet had children, I was devestated by the idea of a hysterectomy. I was also terrified of chemotherapy - how would I be able to work? Would I lose my hair? How sick will I be? It was completely overwhelming, especially since I was being told that it needed to happen immediately.

Before I get further into my experience, here are the basic facts about the most common types of treatment for ovarian cancer:

1) Surgery - Surgery to remove the cancerous growth is the most common method of diagnosis and therapy for ovarian cancer. It is best performed by a qualified gynecologic oncologist.
2) Chemotherapy - Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using chemicals (medications) that travel through the bloodstream to destroy cancer cells or stop them from growing both in and outside the ovaries. Chemotherapy is used in the majority of cases as a follow-up therapy to surgery.
3) Radiation Therapy - Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

But according to my first doctor, I needed a full hysterectomy and chemotherapy. Immediately. And by immediately, I mean that she originally wanted me back in the OR within a few hours of telling me I had cancer. Without giving me time to process. Before my mom or any of my support system could be with me. Without even discussing any other options.

Luckily, my first response was panic and to dig in my heels.

For the next three days, my first doctor pressured me around the clock to allow her to take me back into surgery. She told me that I could be developing an infection and go into septic shock because the cyst had ruptured. She told me that the cancer could be spreading as we spoke. She told me no other doctor would tell me any differently. She told me it would take weeks to get a second opinion and that was time I didn't have to waste.

I was so very scared.

But I refused to accept her words and sought a second opinion anyway. Thankfully, I was able to get into to see Dr. R that same week. And we all remember his famous first words right?

Calm down.

Even after my first appointment with him, I had to go back to my first doctor for a incision check. She told me that Dr. R was misleading to me, that a hysterectomy was unavoidable. That there was "no being conservative" with ovarian cancer.

I felt so confused and hopeless.

Because of her words, when I went into surgery I was convinced that I would not be coming out with my reproductive system intact.

But she was wrong.

So, here are my 2 cents - for anyone out there who has recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. (Really for anyone who has recently been diagnosed with ANYTHING.)

Seek a second opinion.

For ovarian cancer, it is imperitive for you to be seen by a GYN Oncologist. For anything else, seek out specialists in whatever you are facing. Medicine is so specialized these days - find someone who really knows what they are talking about. I don't believe my first doctor was purposfully lying to me or leading me astray. I believe she didn't know any better. In her experience, women with ovarian cancer are almost always in a late stage and always require a hysterectomy.

But if I had believed her and followed her direction, I would be absolutely devestated right now. Not only because I had lost my ability to bear children. Not only because I would be in menopause at 32. Not only because I would be undergoing chemotherapy.

But because it was ultimately unneccesary.

So, please do your own research. Be your own advocate. And seek out a second opinion.

You will not regret it.

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