I used to be a shy woman who didn’t like the spotlight and never did any public speaking. Ovarian cancer has changed all that. Now I look for opportunities to tell my story.
I am a 62-year-old, Puerto Rican-born, New York-raised mother of two. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004. But for more than a year before that, my symptoms weren’t recognized.
In January 2003, I started to suffer from abdominal discomfort, back pain, indigestion and heartburn. My primary-care physician told me to change my diet and prescribed medication for my indigestion. After weeks with no improvement, I went to a gastroenterologist, who diagnosed gallstones. In March, I had gallbladder surgery.
Most people go back to work within ten days, but it took me a month. My fatigue, heartburn and stomach cramps, I was told, were probably a result of the surgery. Over the following months, I kept returning to my primary-care doctor, who prescribed antacids. Eventually, fearing that he’d brand me a hypochondriac, I stopped going.
That fall, during a routine gynecological check-up, I told my ob-gyn that I was feeling pelvic pressure and a burning sensation in my bladder. My pelvic exam and Pap …