We are honored to share Jerrelyn's story in this post. She not only survived ovarian cancer, but also survived colon cancer. In fact it was her colon cancer that led to the discovery of her ovarian cancer, and she tells her story with serious emotion. Thanks for sharing, Jerrelyn! And congrats on nearing 6 years in remission!
Here is her story:
This was a moment of complete surprise for me. I immediately planned surgery with a wonderful doctor who was head of surgery at an elite hospital in North Carolina. He told me that the tumor was very large and that I would need to live with a colostomy bag. I absolutely freaked out. I insisted that this was not to be. This was the first serious health issue in my life. I was frightened, yet had complete trust in my doctor as he had done my husband’s hernia surgery. The doctor came and the nurse in pre op administered the anesthesia.
My husband said I love you and I will see you later. When I woke up in recovery, I heard the nurse tell me that Farrah Fawcett had died, which I remember thinking was bad timing. I went home after 6 days and went back to the doctor in 10 days for removal of stitches. My Dr. was so kind and exclaimed that I had healed so fast and he’d never seen anything like it. I was so happy. He told me to get dressed and that he would be back in to talk to me. My heart landed in my stomach as I could tell something else was wrong. He walked in the room with a huge file and said he had some bad news.
There were so many spider-like tumors everywhere in my abdomen, including my bowel, large intestine, ovaries, uterus and peritoneal flap, that he had never seen anything like it. “You need to have a radical hysterectomy,” he said. I was dumbfounded and tried not to become hysterical. I bolted to the bathroom and broke down, composed myself and went back to the exam room. He explained that he was referring me to a GYN Oncologist and that I needed to go see him immediately. And so see him I did. When I saw the new doctor, I immediately called him Dr. McDreamy, and he blushed and then said he actually watched that show. I went through ultrasounds and MRI’s in the next two days, and was scheduled for surgery in 6 weeks. He told me if I had not been operated on for the colon cancer, this cancer would not have been found. I was blessed he said. Within a year I would have been very ill and I would not have hope for survival.
Blessed? Really? So I started looking at wigs and wanted to swim in the ocean at least once before surgery, and I finally got an okay from the surgeons to swim after waiting five weeks, with just one week left. During the wait I started going through my belongings and giving things away: clothes, shoes, jewelry. The weekend before surgery I got to swim at the beach in South Carolina. As I floated in the salt water I felt the healing nature in my body and I had never felt better: the angels were with me.
The day of surgery I put on makeup and was scolded by the pre-op nurse… I just wanted to look pretty if that was the last time I saw myself in the mirror. My doctor talked to me before the surgery and said, “ Jerrelyn, when I get inside you I will take no prisoners.” The anesthesia took hold and I just remember telling the surgical nurse how pretty her hat was ... very colorful. When I awoke, I was told the surgery had been a long one.
Afterward, I had four days of acquired pneumonia and difficulty breathing. I was discharged after 9 days. Once home, I was completely lost not knowing what to do. I was told bed rest and no lifting, but then I did a load of wash and wound up rupturing my stitches, which later needed cauterization. I kept waiting for the chemo talk, but was finally told “no chemo, no radiation.” My doctor was certain everything was gone, with no lymph node invasion. So the healing began.
As of June 2014, I will be 5 years in remission. My CA-25 holds between 25 - 27. I found out later that my grandmother on my mother’s side came from the San Luis Valley in Colorado, an area known to have a high incidence of BRCA mutations, and that my aunt had died from ovarian cancer at age 58. My grandmother on my father’s side died of colon cancer at age 75. I never took birth control pills and never had children, so I had those risk factors as well. I was able to have the BRCA test and it came out normal.
I still suffer from scar adhesions from 2 open abdominal surgeries, and I have the “Big C” factor in the back of my mind. However, I feel confident that I shall not have any more cancer. I thank my doctors for being so well educated in their craft and for their sincere, friendly talks with me on this journey.
However, lots of fallout comes from cancer. Sadly, my husband was unable to handle the stress of my diagnosis and began to engage in domestic violence, so I left my home and my belongings and started all over again in Colorado. I have since learned that many partners cannot handle the illness and leave. My patron saint Saint Michael got me through this and will always be with me. As Dr. McDreamy said, “Jerrelyn, you are blessed.” I now feel blessed to have the opportunity to help others in any way I can, and to speak with you here, today.