by Emma Fischer | staff writer
During the Tenth Annual Ovarian Cancer Awareness Run, on September 5, Peyton Gill attended to help spread awareness of
ovarian cancer. Gill is a homebound sophomore from Johnson, undergoing ovarian cancer treatment for the last six months. Symptoms had begun a year prior, with severe cramping as early as August 2016.
“When I was taking my finals for the fall semester, well, that Saturday, I was supposed to go to my friend’s quince but I literally couldn’t get out of bed. My lower abdomen was in so much pain. I just couldn’t move. I thought it could be cramps or something but I knew it shouldn’t be that bad. I was on a bunch of pain medications my parents went to go get. Sunday morning, I was okay,” Gill said.
“The next Tuesday when I was taking my actual finals, I went to my French class and I literally could not get down the stairs because I was in so much pain. I had cold sweat running down my neck and I was really pale to the people around me. I got to my class. About five minutes into it, I asked to go to the nurse. I had a fever, apparently. When my mom came to pick me up, my lower abdomen was really firm and I was really bloated. I went to the pediatrician and they thought I had appendicitis but when they pressed down, it didn’t hurt, like, I wasn’t jumping back or anything. Then they thought I was constipated and I thought ‘great.’ But over the course of that December week, I was having fevers on and off while I had practices for dance,” Gill said.
“By February, the firmness had raised to the upper part as well as the lower part. I was told I looked five months pregnant to people who didn’t see me every day. Then, we did an ultrasound. I got blood taken. When I went to school, I got a blue slip in Biology and I was surprised because my mom would usually text me before she would come to pick me up. I packed up and went down,” Gill remembers. “They pulled me in the room, telling me I had cancer. We drove to the doctor and two days later, I had my surgery to get my tumor removed. I guess there were symptoms all along, but when it’s in the moment you just don’t jump to the conclusion that you have cancer.”
The memory of the diagnosis sticks out as a day she won’t forget, completely altering a normally mundane day at school.
“I was pulled into the room and my dad was crying, so I knew it was bad. It was sort of funny because when my parents are crying, I already think the worst of things, so I thought, ‘oh great I have cancer or something,’ so when they told me, I wasn’t really surprised. I had one tear and then we drove to the hospital. To be honest, my parents took it worse than I did,” Gill said. “On February 6, I was admitted to the hospital to have a grade three, stage three ovarian tumor removed. It was twelve pounds and the size of a basketball.”
No family history of cancer, specifically ovarian cancer, made the diagnosis all the more surprising.
“Only five to ten percent of women have shown a history of ovarian or breast cancer when they discover they have ovarian cancer. So, ovarian cancer is very random. Only five to ten percent show heredity. We do not know what causes it. There is nothing in our DNA. The only way to know you have it is to do an abdominal ultrasound. It is very hard to detect and is usually not the first thing that crosses a woman’s mind when she feels sick. Sometimes it can show it in your bloodwork. That is a genetic marker, but that’s only in seventy percent, so again, there isn’t a pattern. It’s very random. There is no specific way to know if you can get it. Unfortunately, only forty-six percent of women will survive the cancer longer than five years. It is usually because of what stage they found it at. Only about twenty percent are diagnosed in stage one when the survival rate is over ninety percent. Eighty percent are found in stages two, three or four when the survival rates drop to about twenty percent,” Director of the NOCC, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Amber Wood said.
Abdominal pain, bloating, feeling full quickly, and frequent urination are the main four symptoms of ovarian cancer.
“There are several others [symptoms] but those aren’t as common. They are like back pain and fatigue. That is one of the reasons that the cancer isn’t caught until later because the symptoms are felt every day in a woman’s life. So, the difference of them being a normal response of a body’s cycle is that it last longer or it get worse. It is sort of hidden. It is known as the ‘Silent Disease’ or ‘Silent Cancer’ because the symptoms are hidden and it is hard to detect until it gets to stages three or four,” Wood said.
Ovarian cancer is random and difficult to detect. Most people don’t even know that could be a possibility until it’s almost impossible to remove.
“Sadly, anyone with ovaries is at risk because of how random, silent, and dangerous it is. It can be as young as eight and as old as ninety. Just know your body and watch for the signs. It can get worse very quickly and stay hidden until it is too late to turn around,” Wood said.
Gill’s chemo treatment has greatly reduced the cancer cells. Her T-cell count recovers between the weeks of her treatment. She is looking forward to return to school as soon as she is no longer homebound.
“We’re hoping that I can come back this year. We’re just going take it a week at a time.”
If you would like more information on ovarian cancer or to make a donation, you can visit –http://ovarian.org