Every cancer patient has a story to tell | Dee Sparacio
On July 29, 2005, I woke up to hear my gynecologic oncologist say, “You have stage three ovarian cancer.” Hearing those words was difficult and ushered in my life as a cancer survivor.
A few months earlier I had seen my gynecologist about a dull pain I was having on the left side of my abdomen. Since my sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was vigilant about getting an annual physical and mammogram. After two ultrasounds, an MRI and a visit to the emergency room I was referred to the gynecologic oncologists at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick. I underwent a hysterectomy, oophorectomy and had my oomentum removed during debulking surgery.
I chose to take part in a Phase I clinical trial using selenium in addition to the standard chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and Taxol®. During treatment I lost my hair, gained 30 pounds, developed neuropathy and was extremely fatigued. But after nine cycles of chemotherapy I heard the words I was waiting to hear, “There is no evidence of disease.”
In 2006 my gynecologic oncologist suggested I apply to be part of the first LiveSTRONG® Survivors Summit. Attending the Summit empowered me to become a cancer advocate. I have been involved in many New Jersey ovarian cancer organizations since then, raising awareness and fundraising for ovarian cancer research. In 2007 I began writing my blog, Women of Teal, where I share my cancer journey and report on research news and events in my home state.
In May of 2008 I watched my son graduate college, my daughter receive her graduate degree and two weeks later saw my daughter marry. Life was good. Then in October of that same year I went for my six-month follow-up appointment. My CA-125 result was normal but a CT scan showed that I had lesions on my liver and spleen. The cancer had recurred. I thought to myself, “I did this once and I can do it again.” What made me feel badly was the fact that my family had to deal with the recurrence too.
That November I had surgery to remove my spleen and resection my liver. Although all visible disease was removed my gyn-oncs recommended that I have follow-up chemo. So once again I prepared myself to be bald through yet another winter and began chemotherapy (carboplatin and Taxol) in January. During the second cycle I had an allergic reaction to the carboplatin so I finished the last four cycles with Taxol only. Since the spring of 2009 the results of my CT scans have shown no evidence of disease.
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis and a recurrence is difficult but the support of family, friends and fellow survivors has made it a bit easier for me. I hope that my blog entries can be a source of strength for other women and their caregivers.
Every Day is a Blessing!