Ignoring the Warning Signs
- Self-help guru Mara Koefoed, 45, started experiencing severe pain in her ovaries and a swollen abdomen last November, and a doctor chalked it up to what happens with “women her age.” Mara was told to come back one year later.
- Ten days later, her symptoms got so bad she landed in the ER. It was advanced ovarian cancer.
- If you are not satisfied with the care you are receiving, please seek out another doctor. Although that may seem extremely stressful on top of other emotional and physical issues your are dealing with, most often it will be worth it—and may save your life.
Ten days later, an ER doctor found four tumors. She had advanced ovarian cancer.Read More
In hindsight later noted early symptoms in 2017 when she started experiencing pain during sex.
“That was the earliest thing. Another early symptom was a little bit of a different sensation around my urethra. I thought, ‘it feels like a UTI, but it’s different.’ It felt like something was pressing on my bladder.”
She also suffered from fatigue, constipation, and changes in urinary patters: getting up more during the night and having to go more frequently in general.
Though the situation was extremely painful and terrifying for Mara, at the very least the symptoms got so bad that it prompted her to go immediately to the hospital. If she had listened to the first doctor, she may not have saved her life by catching her cancer.
“The distended belly was so extreme that it severely affected my walking, breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping, sitting and going to the bathroom,” Mara recalled. “It was adding pressure to every organ — so intense, I thought I might die. It was one of the most painful and scary things I’ve ever experienced.”
The tumors on her ovaries were 12cm wide and the others were 2cm on her bladder and rectum. She was able to have it all removed during surgery and went through six rounds of chemotherapy treatment.
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Luckily, Mara is doing well after surgery. The love coach by trade—with her husband Danny—will now have many more years to help people find love.
“The biggest messages of all with this disease is: If there is a symptom that is persistent, that keeps coming back or maybe it doesn’t go away at all, that is very concerning.”
In other words, think of Mara’s story and go get checked. Don’t let others dismiss your concerns as paranoia or every day symptoms when you know there is something not right. It’s best to be safe.
Processing an Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
An ovarian cancer diagnosis can turn your world upside down. All of your priorities—your family, your partner, your job—have to immediately shift to accommodate your cancer and its treatment. It’s no wonder that depression and anxiety are so common in ovarian cancer patients.
“It’s not unusual for me to have patients tell me that they are having extreme anxiety, sadness, changes in their mood, in coping with the disease diagnosis and getting through treatment,” Dr. Jayanthi Lea, gynecologic oncologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, tells SurvivorNet.
The first thing Dr. Lea asks her patients about is their diet and sleep habits.
“Because very often, people stop eating. They can’t sleep,” she says. “And then the other component is, do they have somebody close to them that they can talk to — a spouse, a loved one, a friend? These are all important things, because it’s important for people to get some type of normalcy amidst the chaos of being told that they have an advanced stage ovarian cancer.”
If you feel overwhelmed by emotions right now, talk to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. Also lean on the doctor who treats your cancer. If you are not satisfied with the care you are receiving, please seek out another doctor. Although that may seem extremely stressful on top of all the other emotional and physical issues you are dealing with, most often it will be worth it.
Contributing by SurvivorNet staff.