How I got my nickname, Lucky

mayenewsletterv2My name is Andrea Annese Como and this is my experience as an ovarian cancer survivor. Here’s a little background: I spent a long time taking infertility drugs and was never able to conceive a child. I would soon learn that this increases the risks of ovarian cancer. In July of 2006, I was turning 40 and decided to challenge myself. Exercise and healthy eating had always been an important part of my life and so I decided to begin sprint training. Soon after, I started to notice a few symptoms that were unusual for me. This is when the first whispers  began. Frequent urination when exercising… fatigue…spotting between periods… mild pain on my left side…

After an exam and several other tests, I was told that there was nothing to be concerned about at that time. A few weeks later while my family and I were vacationing in Florida, the whispers began again. They faded for a few weeks and naturally faded from my mind as well. Little did I know that another whisper was right around the corner…

I will never forget that unusually warm day, March 12th, 2007. I picked up our children, Nathaniel and Nicolette, from school and we were stopping at the track on the way home to run. I was on my final sprint when the pain started. Alarmed by its severity, I called my husband, Dave. Within the hour, we were at the emergency room.

It was determined that I had two large cysts pressing against my left ovary which I was given medication for to ease the pain. That following morning, I met with my gynecologist, Dr. Clements, who determined that immediate surgery would be required.

My heart told me something was not right, but my faith told me that everything was going to be fine.

I received the diagnosis of Stage 2 ovarian cancer. Dr. Kredentser, a Gynecological Oncologist who performed my surgery, later informed me that if I did not experience the pain from the cysts, my diagnosis would have remained undetected and the cancer would have progressed onto Stage 4 very quickly.

I was later relieved when Dr. Aghajanian, Chief of Oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told me that chemotherapy would not be necessary. Instead, she recommended three radiation treatments. Dr. Savage was my radiologist at St. Peters Hospital, and I can honestly say that he and all of the nurses that cared for me were incredible as they helped to make a frightening situation as comfortable as possible for me.

I am always asked how cancer has changed my life, and my answer is simply this; in many ways, cancer was a gift .

It forced me to think about who I am and who I want to be.
It has given me clarity of purpose, and that is to raise my beautiful children, Nathaniel and Nicolette.
It has given me clarity of conscience, to have the best attitude each and every day.

In the beginning I remember thinking, please God, just give me a break! But after time passed, I realized that God did give me quite a few breaks. I went through infertility so I would be blessed with adopting Nathaniel and Nicolette. I went through enough pain to go to the emergency room, which led me to surgery. And then, my big break, my diagnosis was detected early.

I am so grateful to say that I recently celebrated five years of being cancer free. I believe everything happens for a reason. In return for all of the breaks I have received, I am hoping that I can share my own experience with as many
women as I can.

I encourage you to share this story with all of the special women in your life, and remember: ovarian cancer whispers, so listen!

Thank you for listening to my story.
Andrea

Do you have a story to share? Email survivorship@foundationforwomenscancer.org.

Spotlight

Visit the Sisterhood of Survivorship page to read “Dena’s Story” — by a vulvar cancer survivor who has shared her story and wise words, and channeled her energy into her National Race to End Women’s Cancer team.

Awareness

Vaccine efficacy against vulvar infection with HPV 16/18 was comparable to the efficacy found against cervical infection 4 years after vaccination, according to researchers with the National Cancer Institute.

Research

The Foundation has published its 2014-2015 Research Grants and Awards Booklet with Applications. Please consider applying to become part of an elite group of physician-scientists committed to the well-being of women at risk for/affected by gyn malignancies.

Education

The next Ovarian Cancer Survivors Course will be Saturday, July 26, 2014 in Boston. For more information on courses, click here.