A Survivor’s Story
Surviving Against the Odds: The Power of Vigilance
Barbara Banks-Wittich knows what vigilance is all about. For a year and a half, she complained of right-sided stomach pain, and was initially given painkillers to ease her discomfort. In time, the pain got worse. She faced a battery of tests, and though they all came back negative, the pain continued to worsen. “I went to bed one night, and the pain was so bad, from the front to the back of my stomach, it woke me from a sound sleep,” Barbara explained. “I told my husband something was wrong.”
She saw a urologist who found a tumor, and within a week, she underwent surgery for late stage three ovarian cancer. Life would never be the same. “I was a practicing attorney for 25 years, and this put a screeching halt on my career,” Barbara said. Her husband David put his career as a managing partner for IBM on hold to devote all his time to caring for Barbara.
David is well aware of the lack of attention paid to ovarian cancer. “Ten to fifteen years ago, the big drive was for breast cancer self-exams and mammograms,” he said. He underscores the sobering fact that there is so much awareness of breast and colon cancer as more people are educated on early detection and prevention, but there is no method of early detection for ovarian cancer, and oftentimes, education about risk factors and symptoms does not receive the same attention as other cancers. “Women should be saying, ‘prove to me that it’s not ovarian cancer’ and work backwards from there,” he said.
Fed up with the lack of medical care truly focused on how to best treat her condition, Barbara traveled from her home in Palm Beach, Florida to New York City, where she is originally from, to see a physician who immediately recommended surgery upon finding more tumors in her liver, pelvis, and diaphragm. She is thrilled with the quality of care she receives now and travels to New York regularly for ongoing treatments.
Barbara is overwhelmingly thankful for her husband and daughters, 5 year-old Sarah and 12-year old Rachel, for being such a strong support system. “There’s a reason I was spared, and the reason is to get the word out there, and the word is vigilance,” Barbara explained. “You have to be your own advocate.”
Last updated on: 10/28/2008
Hi, I also have stomach and obdominal pain and I leave in the New York area but they have not found any such tumors. I’ve had a ct scan recently. Any other ideas?
Susan Soyland – 11/05/2008
You must have a CA125 blood test. Demand it. If your insurance company won’t pay for it then you pay for it. Don’t let a doctor talk you out of it.
Don Martell – 12/09/2008
Demand that a transvaginal cat scan and have it read by another radiologist and go and see a MD oncologist and demand a CA 125 test and if the paIN PERSIST THEN CHANGE DRS
Susan Soyland – 12/16/2008
David and Barbara,
I share in your sentiments regarding early detection methods for other types of cancer, there are methods for breast and colon cancer, but not ovarian cancer. I continue to contribute to the OCRF in hopes that their research will lead to an early detection method. Your 2 children (I see in your photo) need you, as does your husband, family and friends and I hope that with increased attention to ovarian cancer research that fewer people with have to deal with losing their female loved ones to ovarian cancer.
Marcie Herzog – 12/24/2008
TYVM you’ve svoled all my problems
Azia Azia – 06/02/2011
Free knwolegde like this doesn’t just help, it promote democracy. Thank you.
Clarinda Clarinda – 01/23/2012
IMHO you’ve got the right asnewr!
Gloriana Gloriana – 01/23/2012