The Road to Diagnosis

Ovarian Cancer Survivor Kimberly

After Kimberly was diagnosed with Stage IIc ovarian cancer at age 39, she learned to live moment by moment. Today, she is not just a survivor, she’s a strong voice for ovarian cancer awareness and an advocate for all women diagnosed with this disease. She is a program analyst and the president of the board of the Georgia Ovarian Cancer Association. Kim blogs from a suburb of Atlanta, GA where she lives with her husband, Erik.

The road to my diagnosis had a lot of twists and turns, starts and stops. There were dead ends and misleading road signs. There were times when I just wanted to give up, turn my car around, and go home. Fortunately, I didn’t.

I spent 18 months going to my primary care physician as many as three times a month. Eighteen months!

Every visit, I told her about feeling full, and feeling there was something moving on my left side. And every visit, she tried something different to relieve my symptoms. She gave me everything from anti-nausea drugs to drugs for acid reflux, to antibiotics for kidney and urinary tract infections. Once she even put me on a liquid diet because she thought I had pancreatitis.

There were blood tests, x-rays, upper and lower GIs, a colonoscopy, and abdominal CT scans. I went to two different GI docs! One GI specialist even had the nerve to tell me I needed to see a psychiatrist because this was all in my head. And after each and every doctor’s visit, I’d leave without answers, but knowing deep down that something was wrong.

Then, by chance, I attended a Lunch-and-Learn about ovarian cancer. I left with a symptom card, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I took a closer look at what it had to say. My symptoms were all right there: abdominal pain, bloating, frequent urination, feeling full after a meal, and nausea. I had all of the symptoms on that card except for one: vaginal bleeding. No test or specialist had put together all the information that I found on that little piece of paper!

I immediately made another appointment with my doctor. When my husband and I got to her office, I handed her the card. It was an “ah-ha” moment for her. After a year and a half of back and forth, I finally had something that made sense.

If I had known about ovarian cancer, its symptoms, and the lack of diagnostic testing, I would have realized that the changes in my body were not “silent.” They were there to make me pay attention. I just had to learn to listen. My goal now is to help health care professionals think of ovarian cancer first, not last like they so often do.

The road to diagnosis can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. Stay informed, listen to your body, and don’t give up. Keep going until you have the answers!