US-based Sara was was first diagnosed 15 March 2013 at the age of 21 and suffered a recurrence on 12 December 2014. Now in remission, she hopes to use her story to raise awareness of the disease and help others.
"Most of my cancer story is told in numbers. I battled ovarian cancer for three years, undergoing 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation, and two major surgeries. The figures are all recorded in a chart somewhere that’s as thick as my thumb.
The aspects of cancer that keep me awake at night, however, I could list on one page. They all boil down to three main questions: am I going to get cancer again, if so when, and will any of my loved ones have to go through this too?
Ovarian cancer was not something I had ever pondered before my diagnosis. So when my stomach started to bloat past the waist of my jeans and I could no longer breathe while lying on my back, I just assumed it was gallbladder troubles. All the signs were there, along with a stabbing pain that radiated from my right side down to my pelvis.
Even the constant need to urinate was explained away by a reoccurring kidney infection. Nothing stirred up thoughts of cancer in my mind until I found myself in so much pain I could no longer turn onto my stomach. One quick Google search led me to a checklist of ovarian cancer symptoms. I matched them all.
A trip to the ER later and I was told I had a basketball-sized mass on my left ovary. I was sent to a specialist at the University of Kentucky where I had surgery to remove a 20-pound cancerous tumour.
That was the end in many ways. It was the last time I ever trusted my body to care for me. It was the last time I felt like making plans for my future. But through all of the doubt and terror that cancer brought me, I knew one thing without a doubt: I did not want to see anyone else in my life suffer from this disease.
Today I do my best to spread awareness of ovarian cancer. I pressure my friends into doctor appointments. I wear teal come March and September for both the UK and the US. I share news on my social media and talk about my own experience to an almost boring extent. However, there are moments where I still look at my friends’ faces and wonder if I’m doing enough.
"Doubt is the number one killer when it comes to cancer"Sara Lowe
It’s easy to doubt a cramp as a cyst or a particularly long period as hormones. But nobody knows your body the way you do and if you feel like something is going on, trust those instincts. Don’t let doubt be the reason you stay home from the clinic.
An even more powerful motivator to do nothing is fear. If you find yourself afraid of knowing what exactly is going on, try to trace that fear back to its origin. Are you afraid of what you might face? Are you worried you are not strong enough to endure treatment?
Talk about these feelings with a loved one or a medical professional. You are not as alone as you feel. I still deal with the fear and anxiety that cancer brought me. Don’t let that fear keep you at home.
Ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers and the most important weapon in fighting it is early detection. If you experience any of the symptoms, make an appointment with your health provider. Trust yourself enough to give in to your feelings instead of doing nothing. Lobby for research and healthcare laws. Do your best to protect your sisters and trans brothers, and of course, yourself.
I finally found myself in remission in August of 2015 and I would like to think that I’ve completed my journey with this disease. However much I have gained during my time dealing with cancer, more has been lost. Whether it’s my inability to have children, the changes my body has endured at a rapid pace, or the scar that now runs down my abdomen like a finish line, I will carry my losses for the rest of my life.
But I do have my life, and the potential to prevent others from dealing with the same issues. Take care of yourself, take time to nurture the strength and courage you harbor and, most of all, learn to trust what your mind is telling you about your body."