Melisande Wolf (left) and Randi Hooten (right), members of our MC3 family and also sisters, have personal experience with watching a loved one fight ovarian cancer. This is their story.
Our mom had a PhD in human genetics, but for most of our childhood, she was a stay-at-home mom who did the typical “mom things”: she took us to and from school, helped us with our homework, and made all our meals. In addition to raising three kids, at different points in her life, she taught Hebrew, college biology, and medical school genetics. She was enviably intelligent, no matter the subject. Our mom also loved to knit and passed on her love of knitting to us. Today, we have closets dedicated to all things yarn and knit for ourselves and for friends and loved ones.
Our mom’s diagnosis of ovarian cancer was in 1998. She had a very close college friend who had a weakened immune system. Thoughtfully, when our mom developed a cough, she wanted to treat it to keep her friend safe. After two rounds of antibiotics, our mom’s nagging cough remained. Our dad, a physician, listened to her breathing and knew something was very wrong. It turned out that our mom had stage 4 ovarian cancer, which had spread to her chest and abdomen. The cancer in her lungs caused the cough.
Following an extremely long and delicate surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, our mom had both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. She responded well to each course of treatment, but the cancer always came back. After 4 years of fighting to live as rich a life as she could and stay with us, eventually, her body could not handle the damage caused by all the chemotherapy, and our mom died.
February 2023 marks 20 years since our mom’s death. She never saw her son, our brother, graduate from law school. She never met her granddaughter, who is named after her. She never met one son-in-law. She didn’t see her grandchildren grow up.
Ovarian cancer treatment has advanced tremendously since the early 2000s. Our mom participated in a clinical trial, which ultimately led to standard-of-care chemotherapy treatment for patients with ovarian cancer. Today, treatment has further evolved with the addition of targeted therapies that directly attack cancer cells.
Ovarian cancer spreads quickly; you may not notice any symptoms or the symptoms may be nonspecific until the cancer has already spread. If you are at greater risk of ovarian cancer because of family history or because you have a genetic mutation that increases your risk, you must be vigilant about regular screening, no matter how unpleasant it can be.
We share this personal story in memory of our mom and hope that others will listen to potential warning signs and seek regular screening.
For more information and helpful resources please visit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition website: www.ovarian.org