How did I just skip to Stage IV?

All is well. I have been successfully avoiding chemo nausea with a strict daily regimen of Zofran (anti-nausea medication) and Blue Bell (cookies ‘n cream). Next chemo is Monday, followed weekly thereafter for another couple of months.

Friends have asked me whether I had any warning signs of cancer, or whether a routine check-up should have picked this up. The answers are nope and nope. My particular version of this cancer has special and challenging characteristics (more on that later, because of course I think I’m special and challenging). However, it is essentially Stage IV ovarian cancer. Only about 20% of ovarian cancer is caught in early stages.  That is, almost 80% of women who present with ovarian cancer are already in or very near Stage IV. This should send a chill up the spine, girlfriend.

At Stage IV, there is no cure. There is a great probability of remission for a satisfying period of years, but there is no cure.

A couple of months ago, I started noticing some fatigue (but I’m getting older and still working 10-hour days, so not unexpected, right?); some bloating in my gut (constipation?); some shortness of breath (need to get back on the treadmill?); and that was it. Figuring it was time for a colonoscopy anyway, and since I was having some throat issues as well, I made an appointment with a GI doc.  She duly performed an endoscopy/colonoscopy, top to bottom. All was well with my digestion, but she found a significant stricture of the colon at one spot, and in light of that and the now-unexplained bloating, she ordered an MRI for the following day. Literally two business days later, I had a diagnosis of Stage IV ovarian/peritoneal cancer and was hustled immediately into the care of a surgical oncologist.  So soup to nuts, the time between initial vague symptoms to diagnosis was maybe 3 weeks, max 30 days. Cancer had been growing for many months, and probably for several years. By the time I noticed anything at all, it was waaayyy too late.

I have Googled this conundrum to death and conferred with my docs and the redhead. There is no good answer for early detection.  Genetic testing is not a bad idea – with the caveat that a positive hit does not necessarily mean cancer and may give you a lifelong “preexisting condition” for insurance purposes. There are some blood tests that can identify cancer markers. These are not routinely done in blood work and would have to be requested specially – again, with the caveat above. Even a hysterectomy is not necessarily the solution, because the same cells that are present in female reproductive organs are also present in the abdominal lining (peritoneum) – hence, the same exact cancer can just grow there instead.

Friends, if you have any knowledge or insight into this issue, please post forthwith. Otherwise, this is all I got: Hug often, live joyfully, and value time as a gift beyond price.