To Steve, the love of my life, for dealing with my crazy, and loving me anyway, to the heroes, to the survivors, to OCRF’s Team Hope, to purpose, to life.
On June 25, 2008, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer. In retrospect, the fact that I knew about the “cyst” on my right ovary, and that my doctor and I literally watched it grow for a year, is what has compelled me to share my story.
In spring, 2007, my periods started to become a pain – literally. I was always that 1st day cramp, then home-free kind of girl. But the cramps were lasting through the whole 4 days, which were also heavier, and the week prior I was feeling really run down. I was 42 then, so for a few months I attributed these symptoms to just getting older. When they persisted, I decided to see my GYN. “To be safe,” she said, “let’s get an ultrasound and see what’s going on.”
A week later, her nurse called me and told be that I did indeed have a cyst on my right ovary and that it was fairly large, so I should be careful about strenuous exercise. I said, “What’s large? The size of a nickel? The size of a golf ball?” She said, “No, it’s 7 centimeters. About the size of a fist. So if it ruptures, it will be really painful, and you could get very sick.”
I am a triathlete, so I was discouraged by the “don’t exercise” advice, and I was shocked at how big she said it was. The course of action was to “wait and see.” I was to have another ultrasound in 2 to 3 months, and so it went. Each time I had an ultrasound, the cyst was larger by a centimeter or 2. Each time, I asked the technician, “How do you know it’s not cancer?” At this point, I had been a member of Team Hope for the last 5 years, raising money for ovarian cancer, so I was aware of the disease and how hard it is to detect.
He or she would always say the same thing. “Oh no. If it were cancer, it would be a solid mass with irregular edges. This is liquid filled. Cancer doesn’t look like this.”
I woke up one morning in May, 2008 on my back. When I put my hands on my stomach, I could feel it. I sucked my stomach in and was actually able to grab hold of it. Enough was enough. I saw my GYN and told her that the cyst was having a negative affect on my life. I couldn’t work out like I use to, my cycles were still very hard, and the thing was growing steadily – at last measure, it was 11 centimeters – roughly the size of a grapefruit. She said, “OK, let’s take it out” and we scheduled the outpatient arthroscopic surgery for Thursday, June 19, 2008.
The surgery went as planned. I’d been told it would be a 2-3 day recovery, but still felt quite a bit of pain 5 days later. On Tuesday, June 24, my doctor’s office called me and told me I had to come in the following morning to see my doctor. That was a bit unsettling, as they wouldn’t tell me anything over the phone.
When I arrived, they led me to her office. She proceeded to tell me that my cyst was not just a “simple cyst” afterall, and that I needed to see an oncologist at the hospital and would need another surgery. I said, “Are you telling me I have cancer?” She said, “It doesn’t appear to be invasive, but you need to see an oncologist.”
I requested all my records and went to the University of Chicago, but had to wait a week to see the doctor I wanted to see. The next 7 days were the longest and darkest of my life. The thoughts you have, the feelings of isolation, the surprising and overwhelming guilt you feel over the possibility of causing the people you love so much grief by dying and leaving them. Dark days indeed.
However, the news I received at U of C was very optimistic. No question that I needed another surgery. I was left with a partial diseased ovary from my 1st surgery, and there remained question as to the extent of my cancer. I was given an option. While there was no evidence of cancer in the other ovary, if we chose to leave it and my uteris, we would need to watch very closely in the future for recurrence. Also, because my cancer was not the typical type that strikes the ovary, my new doctors felt it was possible that my appendix had actually seeded the tumorous fragments in my ovary.
That’s what the cancer was, by the way. The liquid that filled the cyst on my ovary was filled with “tumorous fragments.” So, had it ruptured at any point during the year+ that I had it, my story would be very different.
My husband and I agreed that a total hysterectomy and appendectomy were the right course of action for us, and I had my 2nd surgery the following week. There was no invasion, I didn’t have to undergo any chemo or radiation.
I am blessed beyond comprehension. I am here. I am racing in the Naperville Triathlon for OCRF on June 14, 2009, once again as a proud member of Team Hope, only this time, I’ll be racing as a survivor.
My message is, do not allow complacency in your life. From you or from your care provider. Listen to your body – if you think something is wrong, chase it and don’t let a doctor tell you “it’s nothing, you’re too young, wait and see.” Cancer is NOT innocent until proven guilty, but rather, doctors needs to prove to us that it’s NOT cancer.
I have however, been given gifts from this experience. I see life differently. I feel more gratitude amd passion for all the riches my life holds. I feel more connection to those around me and to all the courageous women here. Thanks to each of you and to OCRF for fighting the good fight!
If you would like to make a donation to OCRF through Team Hope triathletes, please go to
Last updated on: 05/21/2009
I am so happy we made it through this difficult time and that you stayed strong to beat this.
Love always, Steve
Steve Troc – 05/13/2009
Maria Troc – 05/13/2009
Kathi, We are so proud of you that you fought so hard and beat this disease. Keep up the good work. Love, Steve & Stella
Stella & Steve Troc – 05/15/2009
I am so touched by your message. At the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund we are doing all we can to fund the research to make a difference. You should meet Jenn Sommermann – please contact Lindsey Weeks at Lindsey@ocrf.org and she will put you in touch with her.
Please keep writing.
Elizabeth Howard – 05/22/2009
Thank you for sharing your story. I “AMEN!” your instruction for women to take control of their own bodies . . . no one else knows what we feel or what changes are taking place as well as we do for ourselves! I am an 11-year survivor and thank God daily for the miracle of my life!
Deb Plybon – 05/22/2009
I also am a survivor and was dignosed with a Stage 2C fallopian tumor. I am in complete recovery now but still worry about a recurrence even though my ocologist told me that he is “optimistic.” Your story is amazing and your courage shines through your message. You really hit home with the word “isolation” as I was just thinking about this the other day thinking about that. You are so lonely throughout this process even when you have your family and friends around you. Coming face to face with your vulnerability is a powerful thing and you do learn a lot from the experience. I pray for all the OCF survivors and will certainly include you in my prayers. Thanks for sharing your story.
Sue Sears – 06/03/2009
I am so glad you licked this thing. Thank you for being the best sister-in-law ever.
Sandy Troc – 06/08/2009
I, too, battled ovarian cancer over 37 years ago!!! A total miracle occurred when our daughter was born Caesarean and the Dr. noticed the cysts on my ovaries. At that time,the medical field did not know that much about it other than it was deadly. They followed up after my hysterectomy with 34 Cobalt treatments. It was the only treatment actually available at that time. I am thankful to God and to the medical people that are being extra careful with their patients…..I have had no recurrences.
..Best Wishes, Thank you for sharing!
Marlene – 07/16/2009