A Life Overcoming Ovarian Cancer


Ovarian Cancer is a highly recognized cancer among women who seek yearly check ups from their gynecologist. Gynecologist embed in their patients how important it is to get checked regularly, exercise, and eat healthy so you can avoid the scares of ovarian cancer. Four percent of ovarian cancer accounts for of all cancers in women with over 200,000 new diagnoses each year across the nation. This cancer is also known as the “silent killer,” because women can go several months without noticing any signs or symptoms before it gradually gets worse. (Kejjar 6) According to Marian Segal, the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry insist on women who have disease in their family, receive genetic counseling and undergo a close watch of their ovaries and to have their ovaries removed by the time they are 35 once they have completed their families to avoid any form of cancer. (13) This could be devastating to any woman who wants to continue to expand their family or knowing that they have to get their ovaries removed just to avoid cancer. When doing further research on this topic, I question whether ovarian cancer is a disease that you can learn to live with or is it an urgent disease that you must eliminate quickly when you are aware of it. Ovarian cancer is the seventh most common cancer among women and is unfortunately the leading cause of death when discussing gynecological cancers. (Zhang 712-7) Normally, the cancer is not diagnosed until the last stage which is very detrimental to you and your ovaries. Once detected, it will be much difficult to find a cure. That is why women must visit their practitioners once they happen to feel a change in their bodies as soon as they suspect abnormal comfort. (Rees 190)

Taking the contraceptive pill, smoking, or having a mutated gene are all risk factors that can enhance your chances of having ovarian cancer. However, tubal ligation, breast-feeding and hysterectomy’s can decrease your chance of ovarian cancer or cervical cancer. (Jones 2231-2239)

My name is Latoya Duncan and I have been attending the college of Southern Nevada for one semester. I am undergoing intense research on a topic of my choice with approval from my professor. I chose ovarian cancer because my father’s sister has ovarian cancer at a young age. I interviewed her to get a better understanding, which you will be able to get to know my aunt later on as we discuss furthermore. This topic is very crucial and important for myself, because not only was one of my family members diagnosed with a treacherous disease, but as a young woman, I can educate myself and have a better understanding on what may lay ahead if I were to ever overcome boundaries as such. I also am aware that cancer is very prominent in my family and I must take careful actions when trying to determine if I could be next for cancer. This research is also to advance my knowledge on this topic so that I can spread the word and educate my fellow peers on this issue that is a great concern for women of all ages.

Summarizing a chapter from the Gale Encyclopedia of genetic disorders, ovarian cancer is where cells start growing rapidly in the ovaries and tumors form excessively. (Badu, Deepti.) Normally, when a woman is in need of seeking professional and medical attention, she experiences bloating, lower abdominal pain, and vaginal bleeding that can persist for several weeks at a time. When the doctors are able to locate a mass, they insist on large incision to get it removed. Entering the abdominal cavity could be very dangerous but to see how serious the mass is, they have to go through that route. From this point, they can remove the tumor attached to the ovaries or remove as much as they can. Chemotherapy is encouraged for women. (Elit 269-86) Chemotherapy is strong chemicals and medicines to kill off the cells that accumulate together to make the tumor. Wexler stated, taking it orally, intravenous, which consist of injecting the medicine through he veins, or through a catheter. This process can last as long as the doctors are seeing any signs of improvement, Usually can go on for years. Chemotherapy has side effects that will make the patient very nausea and a minimal appetite. Other side effects also include hair loss, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, infections, easy bleeding, bruising, and kidney damage. (Wexler 537)

Another form of treatment would be radiation where it is more aggressive than chemotherapy. Radiation shrinks the tumor as much as possible so the doctors can go in and perform surgery to get it removed. This treatment is dangerous because it could also kill the female patients eggs in the womb. It helps to cure, stop, and slow down the cancer. Unlike chemotherapy, this process can take days or weeks, and even when the radiation has stopped, cells are still being killed off. Patients may also receive side effects like easy bruising, a pain that will not go away, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. These symptoms are very similar to the chemotherapy process and can last just as long. (Radiation Therapy 283-300)

Preventing ovarian cancer could be very difficult because when diagnosed, it is normally during the last stages. That is why it is crucial to support a good diet if you run the risk of having cancer. A good amount of fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, and beans in your diet can benefit you and your health in the future. Exercising is another cause that decreases ovarian cancer. According to Regien G. Beisma, several studies associated with a decrease risk when physical activity involves in a patients daily routine, however, Beisma did find studies where physical activities were inconsistent with having ovarian cancer. (109-115)

I had the pleasure of interviewing my aunt, Mary “Flowers” Duncan who is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Mary was an aspiring first chair flute player when Grambling State University was seeking her out for a full ride scholarship to their school. But all that was short lived when she was at school and passed out and rushed to the hospital where they had to conduct immediate surgery on her in 1971. At this sensitive time in her life the doctors had only given Mary a short time to live and they sent her home because they could not do much for her. Shortly after that had passed she had then relied on chemotherapy to help with her cancer. This is when Mary was able to witness gruesome sights of Vietnam war wounded soldiers being treated for their burns, limbs blown off by grenades, and some even blinded. In the exact hospital, Fort Sam Houston, she was able to receive President Johnson’s gratitude and prayers. He was residing in the same hospital due to an illness. She did not officially meet him because the doctors at the time thought ovarian cancer was contagious and they did not want the President to contract this disease. Mary is now living life as her Lord and Savior would have wanted now at the young age of 61. She was excited to tell her story, because to her, it is a testimony that all should hear. This interview was conducted over the phone on April 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm. I used just a simple pen and paper to ask her as much as possible to determine whether ovarian cancer is a disease that you can learn to live with.

Question: When were you diagnosed?

Mary: I was diagnosed at the young age of sixteen.

Question: How did this effect you?

Mary: Well prior to being diagnosed, I was cramping for about three months before I passed out at school and was rushed to the hospital where they had to perform immediate surgery on me.

Question: Did the doctors tell you how much longer you had live?

Mary: Yes. The doctors stated that I only had six months to live because I had stage 3 ovarian cancer.

Question: Did you feel like you were alone?

Mary: No, my family and I stayed close to one another. Although, I was treated differently by the family, our faith was strong and I was not standing alone.

Question: Did your cancer affect your relations with others?

Mary: My parents did not tell me exactly what was going on. I far as I knew, I thought cancer was like having a cold.

Question: How did they treat your ovarian cancer?

Mary: I was taking 27 different types of pills, pain medications, I did chemotherapy for three years and I also had my fair share of radiation.

Question: Did you lose hair?

Mary: Yes, I ended up losing all my hair. When I would look in the mirror, I knew it was not me. I even got down to 80 pounds but I was still in great spirits because I knew that this was not going to overtake me.

Question: How was your diet? What did you eat?

Mary: Well my bowel movements had stopped working and when I ate, it felt like I was chewing on paper. I was also always bloated. When I was in the hospital, I had my own personal refrigerator and that is where I kept popsicles, ice cream, yogurt, and Jell-O’s. I also could only eat pickles and lemons because they were sour and being that my taste buds were gone, eating those really helped me.

Question: Could you have children after the treatments?

Mary: I could not have children, but I had a lot of siblings so I did not mind. I knew that the Lord had a plan for me.

Question: Do you feel the medical industries have better knowledge on ovarian cancer now compared to 45 years ago?

Mary: Of course! At the time, they thought ovarian cancer was contagious and my parents had to fight to get me back into school!

Question: How did you overcome your cancer?

Mary: I had to put my faith in God and trust that he knew what he was doing.

Question: Could you explain the radiation process?

Mary: I had moved to San Francisco to start radiation. The radiation shrinks your tumors, but in the process it killed my eggs.

Question: How did chemotherapy make you feel?

Mary: Chemotherapy made me sick. I had to take nausea pills and I could not eat. I had got down to 80 pounds and the doctors had threatened that if I did not gain at least ten pounds then I would not be going home. Since then I have not had any chemo since 1974.

Question: When it was time for your surgery, what happened?

Mary: They had to go in and remove two tumors that were the size of gulf balls. I had a tumor on my kidney and one attached to my ovary. And I can say that I am a cancer survivor! [Shouts]

Question: Is there anything else that you would like to add or any advice you would like to give?

Mary: I remember when I stopped looking in the mirror because what I looked like physically is not what I felt on the inside. I remember when my husband walked out and left me because he could not take it anymore, it was too much for him to handle. He left me at my bedside. But through it all, I gave everything to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is not your battle, it is his! Do not give up or you will worry yourself to death!

After conducting the interview, I felt as though the hypothesis is answered to its best ability. Mary had answered a lot of the answers that I was curious about and brought insight to someone who needs advice or who had questions like mine. Mary seemed very positive as if this was just a minor setback that she had to experience in her life even though this is a cancer that can be very detrimental to your health. The positivity that she exposed gave me hope, that I would be able to set an example because of her lifestyle even though it was a tough trial that she had to go through. I am honored that my family was there by her side and she did not feel alone. When she spoke of the radiation and chemotherapy, she confirmed that those were two rough medical stages that she had to endure while receiving treatment and the research that I was able to seek represented that. However, I was not aware of her not having an appetite and losing massive weight. She could not eat solid foods and had to result to liquids and soft foods. It was amazing that she was able to come out of surgery after having two tumors removed that was the size of gulf balls. She had got down to 80 pounds and that is when the doctors realized that Mary was headed down an unhealthy path and had to support her into eating more. Mary spoke about her faith and how she held on tight because she knew that the Lord wanted her to go through this so that one day she could be a testimony to others and lead by example and still be strong. It was surprising that the doctors over 45 years ago thought that ovarian cancer was contagious when it was not. That really showed that the medicine and technology has changed for humanity. Knowing that at one point in time they thought that ovarian cancer was contagious was definitely a huge mistake in diagnoses and medicine. Mary Duncan has set a great example for anyone who has now found out that they are diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. Not only is Mary brave but she is also a hero that anyone would want to look up to. Mary has proven that you can prevail over ovarian cancer by having a well-built support system, keeping your faith, and being open-minded to the medical industry and what they have to offer to give you a full life. Her story will continue to inspires others from here on out.

Case studies need further outlook on ovarian cancer. More tests needs conducting that can detect the disease in the early stages instead of finding out when a patient has entered their last stage of the cancer. There should be in depth test that can determine when the cancer is at the early stages so that it can be exiled from the womb immediately. Patients should not have to find out at the late stages when the cancer has taken over their bodies. Women should seek professional medical treatment to get test ran on them yearly when visiting their gynecologist to make sure that they are not at risk. Finding out that you have entered the last stage of cancer should not continue to happen as technology and medicine progresses every decade. Now having a better understanding of chemotherapy and radiation for this disease was a success. However, it is very unfortunate that radiation can kill your eggs while undergoing the treatment. Patients can live with ovarian cancer as heard from Mary Duncan. I believe that it is the will-power within an individual who wants to overcome the atrocities that comes with this disease. I also found out living with ovarian cancer is detrimental but there is a possibility that you can defeat this disease with not only the medication and surgeries that society provides but the power in you that is within. I recommend that you do intense research on your family history on cancer and diseases so that you may know ahead of time if you will be at risk. This “silent killer” will not continue to take lives of women if there is a sense of urgency to either find a cure or look into the various options that will continue to allow patients to promote healthy living and expand their families. Ovarian cancer should not be the reason why someone wants to give up, but to know that this is only a stage in their life where they can know hold on to family and their faith.

Babu, Deepti. “Ovarian Cancer.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Genetic Disorders. Ed. Laurie J. Fundukian. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2010. 1156-1159. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

Elit, Laurie, Cathy Charles, and Amiram Gafni. “WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT TREATMENT DECISION MAKING IN OVARIAN CANCER.” Psicooncología 7.2 (2010): 269-86. ProQuest. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

Gajjar, Ketan, et al. “Symptoms And Risk Factors Of Ovarian Cancer: A Survey In Primary Care.” ISRN Obstetrics & Gynecology (2012): 1-6. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

Mary “Flowers” Duncan, April 09, 2015, 7:55 pm, (254)-548-9247, Phone Interview

“Radiation Therapy.” Breast Cancer Sourcebook. Ed. Karen Bellenir. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2009. 283-300. Health Reference Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

Rees, Margaret, et al. Section 7: Prevention and Screening – Ovarian Cancer Screening in Normal and High-Risk Populations. 190p. Oxford: Clinical Publishing, An Imprint of Atlas Medical Publishing Ltd, 2008. ProQuest. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.


Regien G. Biesma, Leo J. Schouten, Miranda J. M. Dirx, R. Alexandra Goldbohm and Piet A. Van Den Brandt Cancer Causes & Control Vol. 17, No. 1 (Feb., 2006), pp. 109-115


Sandra C. Jones, Christopher A. Magee, Jane Francis, Karen Luxford, Parri Gregory, Helen Zorbas and Donald C. Iverson

Cancer Causes & Control

Vol. 21, No. 12, Comprehensive Cancer Control in US (December 2010), pp. 2231-2239

Segal, Marian. “Ovarian Cancer: Today’s Treatment, Tomorrow’s Hope.” FDA Consumer 26.10 (1992): 13. Health Source – Consumer Edition. Web. 1 Apr. 2015.

Wexler, Barbara. “Chemotherapy.” The Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. Ed. Jacqueline L. Longe. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 534-538. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

Zhang, M., et al. “Diet and Ovarian Cancer Risk: A Case-Control Study in China.” The British Journal of Cancer 86.5 (2002): 712-7. ProQuest. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.


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