Not Giving Up
- Sherry Pollex, 43, longtime partner of NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr., 42, was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in 2014. After experiencing a few years of joy in remission, sadly, her cancer came back just last September for the second time.
- The health-enthusiast and yogi—who appears completely “normal” on the outside, which is typically a strange feeling for cancer patients—is continuing to keep faith after setbacks with her treatment, and currently awaiting the results from her latest biopsy to see what her options may be.
- The reality is that ovarian cancer, for many cases, will eventually return after treatment, but it’s important to stay hopeful, as new therapies are extending the time between recurrences.
“My doctors say all the time, ‘We don’t know what to do with you, because we don’t have a patient like you,’” she said in a recent interview with The Athletic. “You’ve recovered three times. You’ve been through this many drugs. For all intents and purposes, you look like a perfectly healthy person.Read More
“If I walked by on the street, you’d have no idea I have cancer,” she added of her blonde, beautiful exterior. “But if you look at my scans, it’s very apparent I have cancer.”
Luckily, along with her supportive partner, Sherry also has her mother Julia to lean on, especially during her darker days.
“This woman right here is my everything. My rock. My best friend. She makes me laugh, cry and want to be a better person everyday,” Sherry captioned a recent mother-daughter beach shot.
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SurvivorNet caught up with Sherry in April and she had mused about the term “warrior” and how she had been feeling. “It’s hard to see yourself as a warrior when you’re in it. You’re in fight or flight mode,” Pollex told us at the time.
No matter what she wants to call it, the real life Wonder Woman seems more determined than ever to fight, noting that she’s not giving up and is “keeping faith” that there will be a treatment match out there for her as she currently awaits results of a recent biopsy.
The last time Sherry underwent chemotherapy, a few months before her latest recurrence, she unfortunately found out that her cancer was what they call “platinum resistant,” so she and her medical team are determined to find other options. Surgery, sadly, is not one, now that she says that her cancer is spreading from her lung into her esophagus.
“It’s heavy, because it’s not like you’re just making a decision on your house or your car,” she says. “It’s your life. What you decide needs to work. The pressure and the mental side of it is really hard.”
In the meantime, as she plays the waiting game for her next move, her doctors have urged her to “go enjoy your life” and travel, but as a “type-A personality,” that’s not always achievable—especially when you can’t tune out what’s going on on the inside.
“The worst thing you can do is sit still by yourself and give yourself too much time to think about it, because then you just can’t stop,” she continued to The Athletic. “You go down that rabbit hole of, ‘Well, what if this doesn’t work?’ And that becomes so dangerous, because we don’t know whether that’s true or not. So to take those possibilities and run with them can get you in a lot of trouble. And I try not to do that. But it’s really hard.”
What she does have control of is advocating for other women and cancer patients, and that is exactly what she has dedicated her life to doing. Even before she was sick, Sherry co-founded the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation with her love in 2007 to help pediatric cancer patients.
“I often wonder if that’s my purpose here,” she expressed. “It’s maybe not what I would have chosen for myself — nobody really wants to be the poster child for any type of cancer — but maybe I’m supposed to go through all this so I can pave the way for other women.”
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Some days are tougher than others, but on the days she’s feeling “on,” she truly does feel fueled by her calling.
“You know, I’ve been given this really important role in this life, and if I’m going to leave a legacy behind and help other people, then I need to do it 100 percent.”
When Ovarian Cancer Comes Back
The reality is that ovarian cancer, for many cases, will eventually return after treatment, but it’s important to stay hopeful, as new therapies are extending the time between recurrences.
Finishing your initial ovarian cancer treatment, which is usually a combination of chemotherapy and surgery, can be a big milestone, but unfortunately it often doesn’t mark the end of your cancer journey. As many as 80 percent of women may ultimately experience a recurrence, meaning that their cancer returns. “For many patients, that relapse comes one to two years after they complete their first therapies,” says Dr. Gillian Hsieh, gynecologic oncologist at Sutter Bay Medical Foundation in the Bay Area in California.
The likelihood of the cancer returning depends, in part, on its stage and grade. People who are diagnosed at stage I, when the cancer is confined to the ovaries, have a much lower chance of a recurrence than those who are diagnosed with a stage IV cancer, which has spread outside of the abdomen.
While a cancer’s stages are defined by location, the tumor’s grade describes its biology. A high-grade tumor has more abnormal cells, and tends to be more aggressive than a low-grade tumor, “and so it has a lot of opportunities to mutate and to overcome the effects of previously successful treatments,” Dr. Hsieh says.
Treatment Options for Cancer Recurrence
The type of treatment you receive for a recurrence can depend on a number of factors. Two of the most important:
- The length of time between your last treatment and the recurrence
- The type of chemotherapy you had in the past
If the time between remission and recurrence is more than six months, then the ovarian cancer is categorized as platinum-sensitive, meaning it responded well to a platinum-based chemotherapy treatment in the past. In that case it’s likely that you’ll have chemotherapy again, using another platinum-based drug.
But if your recurrence happens less than six months into remission, the cancer is classified as platinum-resistant, and you’ll probably be treated with different drugs.
Secondary surgery is sometimes recommended after a recurrence, although that practice is becoming less popular as new studies are showing the surgery doesn’t improve survival for most women.