Before being diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer at the age of 34, Jennifer Broxterman was constantly told that she was young and healthy — but the registered dietitian knew that something was off.
While in her late 20s, Jennifer Broxterman, a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, began experiencing some gastric and menstrual symptoms that just did not feel right. She had an abnormal Pap smear at a visit with the gynecologist, but clinicians kept telling her that she was young and healthy.
Eventually, Broxterman — who is the founder and CEO of NutritonRX, an Ontario, Canada-based nutrition counseling service — had trouble keeping down any food. A colonoscopy revealed a tumor, and further biopsies and testing led to Broxterman’s diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer at the age 34.
“I was getting judged and not being taken seriously because I didn’t look sick. I didn’t look like someone who had cancer,” Broxterman, who was also a competitive CrossFit athlete at the time of her diagnosis, said in an interview with CURE®.
READ MORE: You Don’t Look Sick
Instead of getting angry at the health system, Broxterman decided to take charge of her health information. She requested copies of all medical tests that she’d had, reached out to experts about her disease and healing, and spoke up when she needed nutrition counseling, occupational therapy and other services after her surgery — a procedure in which all of her reproductive organs, part of her intestines and bladder and others were removed from her body due to the cancer’s spread.
“For me, I just realized I had to take extreme ownership and empowerment, so I turned it into a positive, not a negative,” she said.
Broxterman opened up to CURE® about her post-surgical difficulties, which included being temporarily paralyzed in one leg, not being able to eat for days on end and relying on family and friends for the many day-to-day aspects of her life that she used to be able to do without a second thought.
“I was back squatting on Friday, and then not able to even wiggle my toes on Monday,” she said.
In this episode of the Cancer Horizons podcast, Broxterman tells her story of being diagnosed, how she feels privileged to be able to advocate for herself and emphasizes that, yes, young and healthy women can get cancer, too.
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