Today is Teal Tuesday and a wonderful opportunity to share another teal warrior story.
It has been said often but it definitely bears repeating that currently there are no screening tests to detect ovarian cancer, which makes it vitally important to know the signs and symptoms so early detection is possible. By sharing these stories it is our hope that we are able to save more lives by detecting this horrible cancer before it spreads.
Please help us by sharing this story!
As the Community Outreach Coordinator for Stef Ripple I have the pleasure of meeting many teal survivors. Meeting them and sharing their stories has become such a special part of the Stef Ripple mission. It is through these stories that we are able to spread the most awareness about ovarian cancer.
Writing this story has such a special meaning to me as I met Nancy Long several years before our lives would become permanently joined by teal warriors.
It was 2015 while at my annual gynecology appointment that I first met Nancy Long. Nancy was a nurse practitioner in the GYN group where I was a patient. It was my first time seeing her, and I can now say with absolute certainty that it was divine intervention.
Nancy entered the exam room and almost immediately noticed a teal rubber bracelet that I was wearing. When you are only wearing a paper gown it’s easy to notice things like this. She touched the bracelet and asked me about it. I proudly shared with her that I was wearing it for my friend Stefanie who is battling ovarian cancer. The bracelet said “We Fight For Stef” and before I could share any of Stef’s story Nancy smiled at me and said “I know Stef”. Nancy went on to share that she is an 11 year cancer survivor and a volunteer for the Central MD Chapter of The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC). Stef was actively involved with NOCC and Nancy had the privilege of offering hope and support to Stef.
Two years after I had that chance encounter with Nancy, Stefanie lost her battle with ovarian cancer. It was during that time of grief that Stef’s family decided to honor and remember her beautiful life by forming Stef Ripple. Without the support, love, guidance and encouragement of Nancy we would not be able to do all the amazing things we are doing to support teal warriors. We are forever grateful to Nancy.
I met Nancy and Jim on a beautiful Spring morning and through laughter and tears Nancy shared her incredible story of hope.
Nancy has worked in various areas of Women’s Health for her whole career as a registered nurse. In 2000 she became a nurse practitioner in OB/GYN “I knew about and had cared for
women who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “How could I have missed the signs and symptoms myself?”
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be so vague and often mimic symptoms of other illnesses, making it easy to ignore them or to not seek immediate attention. It is often said that ovarian cancer whispers so we must listen. Nancy believes that it really doesn’t whisper in as much as we are not listening carefully to what our bodies are telling us.
Nancy began experiencing her first symptoms in 2002. She was experiencing constipation and thought it was normal since most women will experience this in their lifetime. It did become more severe and rectal pain was beginning to be an issue. A colonoscopy was ordered and her results were normal.
Fatigue was also something Nancy was battling but she brushed that off as just getting older and being too busy. She also ignored her indigestion “everyone has indigestion-right?” Eventually antacids stopped helping. The final symptom was extreme abdominal bloating. It was then that she knew something was very wrong.
With the help of the physician she worked with, she was able to finally get the answers she was desperately seeking. On August 13 2004 Nancy was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer. “Needless to say, like everyone else who gets a “cancer” diagnosis, I was shocked, saddened, and so afraid.”
Nancy had extensive surgery and 17 months of chemotherapy. Today she is a 19 year cancer survivor. She expresses her gratitude for the many prayers she received, for the help and support of her loving husband, family and friends and of course her wonderful medical team.
We talked about the anxiety that comes with being a survivor. “Even after this many years, it is still difficult to wait for results each time a blood test or a CT scan is done.” I asked her how her life has changed since her diagnosis and she shared that she has learned to appreciate each and every day. With tears in her eyes she also shared that she and Jim read a daily devotional each and every day. It’s this practice that helps to stay grounded in faith and gratitude.
Currently there still are no screening tests for ovarian cancer, which makes sharing these stories that much more important to share. No one knows our bodies like we do. If something doesn’t feel right, keep seeking answers and be your own advocate.
I asked Jim if he had any final words he wanted to share and he simply said “trust your instincts”.
~Wendy Preslan