After visiting the emergency room four times in 2012 because of severe abdominal pains – that she thought may have been gastrointestinal issues – Melissa Brock was told to lose some weight, take an antacid and not to eat for a few hours before going to bed. But her grandfather’s history of cancer loomed in her mind.
The following year, Brock skipped her annual gynecologic Pap smear because her husband had a medical emergency. But soon her pain was so dreadful that she saw her gynecologist and had a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA125 blood test. She was diagnosed with stage 3C serous ovarian cancer.
Brock’s story, as well as those of many other caregivers, family members and patients with ovarian cancer, is featured in You Have Ovarian Cancer: Four Words That Changed Our Lives Forever
, a compilation of memoirs by those who have been touched by this disease.
“The stories do not all have happy endings, obviously, but they’re really stories about people’s courage,” explained Penny Daugherty, R.N., M.S., O.C.N., oncology nurse navigator at the Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, in an interview with CURE
. “And that’s important for people who have this type of cancer to see themselves in somebody else’s shoes.”
Daugherty, who is a member of the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Alliance which curated the book, mentioned that there are plenty of resources for patients with other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, though the ovarian cancer space does not have as many opportunities and venues for these women to feel connected. By sharing the stories of survivors, patients, caregivers and women who have lost their battle to the disease, people with ovarian cancer may feel less alone, Daugherty continued.
The book may also serve as a resource for the patient’s loved ones, Daugherty said, as it shares the stories of family members and caregivers, too.
“The fact that it exists is nice for some of the people who don’t have anything to read but the stuff from their doctor,” Daugherty said. “Women want to hear from other women. We don’t want to hear from some doctor – no matter how famous a doctor hers is.”
It is crucial that women with gynecologic malignancies like ovarian cancer come together and have their voices heard, especially when it comes to research and drug development.
“Now we have people who live 10 and 15 years, hopefully. But we still have those stories of the women who die within a year. It’s a very hard group of ladies to equilibrate, because they’re all told they’re going to die,” Daugherty said.
Also, Daugherty mentioned that there are many activists and celebrities speaking out about other types of cancers, but things are a bit quieter on the ovarian cancer front.
“We don’t have that kind of star shot, so I hope this book will enable people to feel that they want to be activists. They need to be heard,” she said. “When you put something in the light, I think maybe more people will speak up.”
You Have Ovarian Cancer
can be purchased online.