“You Are Your Own Best Advocate” – Recognizing the Subtle Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer

Published Jun 18, 2020

SurvivorNet Staff

Stephanie Virgin had been married for about three years and working as a realtor when she and her husband decided it was time to start a family. The couple had always wanted to be parents. “So I went to my annual appointment with my ob/gyn and told her we were ready to start trying to have kids, and that I’d stopped taking my birth control,” Stephanie recalls.

Her gynecologist’s reply: “Great. I’ll either see you in a year. . . or I’ll see you when you’re pregnant.”

Soon after going off birth control, Stephanie started noticing what she now realizes were symptoms of ovarian cancer.

“I had worsened cramping,” she says. “but I’d heard that could be the menstrual cramping that I just wasn’t used to, since I’d been on birth control,” she says. “I’d also heard of ovulation cramping, so I just thought cramping was a really good sign of trying to get pregnant.”

She also had new lower back pain, but brushed it off as a result of her real-estate job. “I walked around on unstable surfaces in high heels all the time, showing houses,” she says. She never imagined her back pain might be a sign of cancer.

Looking back, Virgin says, “I could explain away every single one of my symptoms.” Actually, she admits, “I didn’t even realize they were symptoms.”

Stephanie was finally uncomfortable enough to visit her primary care physician, who suspected a large ovarian cyst. Surgery revealed that she had ovarian cancer. Now, years later, Stephanie has been successfully treated, and she and her husband are the happy parents of two boys they adopted through foster care.

Her message to women: “If you don’t feel right, call your doctor. If your doctor doesn’t listen, get a second opinion. You need to know that you are your own best advocate.”

 

Learn more about SurvivorNet's rigorous medical review process.