I haven’t always been a runner, but I’ve always been an athlete.
In high school I was a serious dancer, which meant I knew my own body pretty well, so when I started to notice pain during rehearsals — pain that felt like a deep pulling or tearing sensation in my lower abdomen — I was worried. As weeks passed, the pain did not subside and I could not dance without pain.
Two months later, I began to experience other symptoms. I could not understand what was happening to my body. The bloating in my stomach was very noticeable and my friends would make comments about it at school.
On Friday, May 1, 2009, I went on a field trip to Washington D.C. with my sophomore class. I began to feel sick on the trip and knew something was not right. The following Monday I was sent home from school with a fever. That would be my last day at school. I was only 16 years old.
One week later, after extensive testing, I received a call with the results of an ultrasound. The nurse on the phone told my dad they had found an enormous mass on my ovaries. She said that in all her years of practice, she has never seen the word enormous used to describe a problem. I was told to go to the emergency room immediately. I stayed through the weekend, and on Monday had surgery to remove the tumor from my ovary. The surgeon told us that the tumor weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces, and was the size of a deflated volleyball. The tumor had also spread into my pelvic and abdominal areas.
In August 2009, I began inpatient chemotherapy, receiving four rounds at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where I stayed for four days every other week for four months. This all took place in my junior year, during which I was homeschooled because I was too immunocompromised to attend school. I was happy about this because it meant I got to sleep in and I didn’t have to be the bald girl at school.
After my last treatment in December 2009, I was told another tumor had grown during that time. I had surgery to remove that tumor a few weeks later.
Then life somewhat returned to “normal.” I went back to school in February, began dancing again and everything seemed great.
But then a few months later, in May 2010, I started feeling like something was not right with my body again. I went for an MRI and it showed that I had another tumor growing in my pelvis. I had a third surgery to remove the tumor. Luckily it was benign, so I did not need more chemotherapy.
Since then I have been monitored very closely by oncologists. I had another surgery in December 2013 to remove another tumor in my pelvis which was also benign. I am now 24 years old and in remission.
In 2011, my family and I participated in our first Sandy Sprint in Philadelphia. The Sandy Sprint, which includes a 10K run and a 5K run/walk, is organized by the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation. The foundation raises funds for ovarian cancer research and programming and offers support to women and families touched by ovarian cancer. I run to meet other strong women fighting ovarian cancer and to support a cause close to my heart.
We have participated for the last six years. My team, the NackPack, consists of many family members and supportive friends. This year I hope to recruit 10 more walkers/runners. I am very lucky to have such a solid support system of people who have been there for me since my diagnosis. I also feel fortunate to be part of an organization that is truly making a difference for so many women.