Carol came out of her ultrasound. She hadn’t seen the results yet, but she knew. She got in the car with Tom, her devoted husband of 30 years, and on the way to speak with her doctor said, “Tom, I have ovarian cancer.” He told her not to be ridiculous, that she was jumping to conclusions. She sat there calmly. Later her doctor came into the room holding back her own tears and said, “You know, don’t you?” Carol replied, “Of course I know.”
Carol was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer on January 27, 2006; that date is forever branded in her mind.
After experiencing back pain for years, Carol went in to get an MRI for a back surgery that she had scheduled. After coming back for even another MRI, Carol received a phone call from her doctor saying that there was something in the results that they did not understand and could she come in for a few more tests immediately. There was a rush put on the tests and Carol experienced a whirlwind of emotions overnight and reported to the hospital the next morning for the tests. A CT scan and an ultrasound were done. As Carol recounts her story, she remembers laying and waiting on the table after the ultrasound knowing it was ovarian cancer.
“I lay there alone in this small room where they did the ultrasound and it hit me like a rock that this was ovarian cancer and I had it. I had to have it. It explained so much. Everything just fell into place.”
The head of radiology came in and and asked Carol if she could go speak with her doctor at her office down the road. That’s when she really knew. An hour later she was sitting with her husband and her doctor, her fear confirmed.
“You have ovarian cancer.”
Carol told her doctor, no matter how bad it was, she wanted to fight.
“I said, “...if this is cancer and if it’s bad, which I fear it may be, I want to fight. I’m 62. I look like a 62-year-old lady. I’m a grandmother to 16 beautiful grandchildren. But trust me, I want to live and I want to fight.” And he had looked me in the eye and he said, “You want to fight Carol, we’ll fight.” And we did.“
It was after a debulking surgery that their suspicions were confirmed. Both of Carol’s ovaries were removed, including a 39-pound tumor on her right ovary; they found that the cancer had spread to her intestines and urethra. The prognosis wasn’t good. As she lay on the recovery table, she asked her doctor “How long do I have?” and with a broken look on his face he quietly responded with two words,
After what seemed like an eternity, her PET scan results came .She watched her doctor jump up and down with joy because he “got it all!” Unexpectedly, he still suggested 12 more months of chemotherapy treatment. He told her that in some cases like hers the cancer comes back, but opting to go through chemotherapy again was up to her.
“I asked him (my doctor) if I were his mother would he advise that I do this (12 more months of chemo). He responded, ‘If you were my mother I'd make you do it.’ So we hopped on another year of seeing the friends I'd made of the nurses and techs, PAs and my doctor.”
Carol resumed chemotherapy with a fighter attitude and the resolve to do anything they could to prevent recurrence. Carol experienced common side effects of treatment; she had to be put on anti-depressants, steroids, and anti-nausea drugs. She clearly remembers loss of taste, fatigue, and chemo brain, but just like she fought the cancer she fought the side effects of chemo.
She leaned hard on her husband, woke up some mornings singing “I am woman! Hear me roar!”, kept up a can-do attitude, wore a bright red wig to church on Sundays, and refused to let cancer get the best of her. Carol talks passionately about the faith she had in God throughout her treatment.
“I was a little nervous, though I heard the Lord whisper in my mind, ‘I’m still here,’ and He was still there...God is good. He gave me patience and He gave me an attitude of looking forward, not back. I realized I had never stopped...I saw myself well. I kept walking towards it.”
To this day Carol is seven years cancer-free. Her attitude towards cancer is a huge inspiration to her husband, children, 16 grandchildren, and others that have decided to live even in the face of a cancer diagnosis and a frightening prognosis. Her doctor told her that her attitude was 90% of her cure; Carol is proud of her positivity, but is also exceedingly grateful for the work that her oncologist and God did in her life. This story is altogether shocking and heart-warming. Are you or your loved ones affected by cancer? How does Carol’s story inspire you?