In The Beginning: My Ovaries Were Talking, but I Wasn't Listening

What a perfect time to begin my story — we are in the middle of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, as well as National HBOC (hereditary breast and ovarian cancer) Week. I love when things line up like it was all meant to be…

Things did not line up for me in October of 2012. While preparing funeral arrangements for my dad who had died unexpectedly, I noticed my oddly-distended stomach when I was trying on dresses for the services. Although I had just had a baby five months prior, it looked as though I was six months pregnant. Too frantic and busy with my father’s death, I had to table it until we got through the week.

I could barely stand up to greet guests at the wake and noticed that if I ate even a small bit of food, I was uncomfortably full. I brushed it off as not eating healthy and assured myself that, once we got through the services, I would be in a better place to slow down and incorporate healthier habits.

It was a heavy, emotional week. Once through it, my husband Tom and I sat down to watch television and have a glass of wine. I noticed that my t-shirt didn’t fit over my stomach — I was uncomfortable in my own skin — and I realized something wasn’t right. We thought maybe I had appendicitis or indigestion because I also had some pain in my abdomen. Tom went to the drug store and bought a bunch of antacids, but nothing worked. Just before dawn, Tom stayed with the kids while I took myself to the Emergency Room.

Mid-morning I was diagnosed with a hernia and indigestion; I was dismissed to go home. My intuition told me otherwise and so did Tom’s. We told them we wanted more information and asked to do a scan. Shocked beyond belief, the doctors told me I had ovarian cancer.

Wait, what?

I was 40 years old. I had a brand-new baby. I had two other small children (you can see my home team in the photo below, less than two weeks before I was diagnosed). I was an overall healthy woman who exercised regularly, had a strong faith foundation and a rich life with close friends and family.

Yet cancer takes no prisoners. It doesn’t discriminate. It is an equal-opportunity disease.

Stage 3C. Surgery, 22  rounds of chemo and four years later I am here to tell the story. Every single day I give thanks for the gift of life.

There are, however, some questions that gnaw at my heart:

  • What if I had received genetic testing earlier? I would have discovered that I carried a BRCA1 mutation and may have taken additional measures right after I had the baby. (Oophorectomy? Mastectomy?)
  • If I knew I had the gene mutation, would I have taken CA-125 tests every six months?
  • If I had listened to my body when I was feeling “uncomfortable in my own skin” and my intuition when “something wasn’t right,” would I have received an earlier diagnosis?

My name is Cynthia Rigali Lund and I look forward to sharing my story and thoughts with all of you who come to read the Ambry Genetics hereditary cancer blog. I hope you walk away feeling inspired and hopeful, and that our connection empowers one another. The good news is that no one is alone in this — as evidenced by this special month and week.

Until next time,

Cynthia



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