OVARIAN CANCER IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF CANCER in women. Symptoms can be easily confused with signs of another disease – these include, for example, bloating and discomfort in this area. Alina Stepura, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, told how to live with this diagnosis and withstand relapses.
About the diagnosis
I have never had gynecological problems – my stomach didn’t hurt, my ovaries didn’t pull, the cycle was always as scheduled. They found fibroadenoma in my chest – this is a benign small formation, with which nothing is done, you just need to observe. I used to go to the gynecologist every few months , she examined me, gave directions for an ultrasound scan.
It all started in the fall of 2017. Somewhere in November from me nor from that nor from this belly began to grow. We with the husband a little surprised, but I thought it was probably a lot of eating and recovered. Then discomfort began: gurgling, seething, it was like bloating. I thought it was flatulence, asked for a drug from it at the pharmacy and drank a course. But it did not get better – the stomach continued to grow. One morning I suddenly woke up with a belly like I was in the last months of pregnancy.
I went to the surgeon, and I was diagnosed with acute ascites – this is the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. I did not know such words, and I became scared. Without letting me go home, they took me straight to the ambulance to the hospital. They said that the liquid urgently needs to be drained – to pierce the abdominal cavity. But when I arrived at the hospital, they refused to do it – they said that there was no acute condition yet and they would examine me.
I am grateful to the hospital – I was examined from head to toe for two weeks . We did all kinds of procedures: ultrasound, gastroscopy, blood tests, puncture, computed tomography. Almost on the same day, the results of a puncture of the fluid, in which they found atypical cells, and a description of a computed tomography, on which enlarged ovaries were visible, came. True, I was not diagnosed there – it was a simple city hospital, not specializing in oncological diseases.
At the hospital, I asked for a referral to the N.N. N.N.Blokhin. My older sister was treated there – she had breast cancer – so I wanted to go there. We asked in the first hospital for glasses with puncture samples, with material in which cancer cells can be found, and we took them to the center for analysis to be reviewed there. Indeed, cancer was confirmed, but which one, then it was not yet understood. The test results were very strange – as if they belonged to a very grown man who had worked on a construction site all his life . Suggested different options – what if peritoneal cancer, then if ovarian cancer. I was admitted to the surgical department for examination, I lay there for a week, and finally the diagnosis was confirmed. It turned out to be ovarian cancer.
I was prescribed a treatment regimen, and almost immediately from surgery I moved to the chemotherapy department. I had nineteen weekly infusions, with surgery in between. In August, I had the last chemotherapy session, I passed the examination, and everything was fine. But literally three – three and a half months passed , and the liquid returned. I had a relapse, and everything started anew: I again ran to chemotherapists and practically a couple of days later I was already on a new course of chemotherapy. I am incredibly grateful to the doctors – almost instantly they put me on a new course, more complex and serious.
I finished the second treatment recently and will now undergo a follow-up examination: ultrasound, computed tomography – everything that can show if I have anything left . I think I had, in a sense, a slight relapse – without new formations.
About treatment and support
Treatment is difficult. In all very individual physical plane. The first time, I practically did not notice anything at all – not counting, of course, abdominal surgery and recovery after it. Chemotherapy was also easy. I didn’t feel bad – only my hair fell out. Physically, the second chemotherapy broke me down a lot. I just finished it recently, and I still have a long time to recover – I feel, to put it mildly, disgusting.
Emotionally, of course, is another story. I worked with psychologists because it was extremely difficult to cope on my own. The support of family and friends also helped – if you don’t share, it’s much harder. I have many friends who supported me and helped me as best they could, an amazing husband who took over everything . Although the children are small, they still provided great support.
It was not difficult to tell others about the diagnosis : I understood that I could not stand it alone without saying it . This is not the first case in my family – unfortunately, my loved ones have many cases of cancer. With cancer at us faced almost everything: both grandparents on my mother’s side, the cancer was in my mother, at the sisters and, in fact, from me. As soon as the doctors found out about my history, I was asked to be tested for genetic mutations. Moreover, the first result was negative, and I was asked to do a repeated, extended analysis (by the way, in our disease this is done free of charge under the compulsory medical insurance). Do we have the mutation was confirmed.
I have two children. The eldest son will be eight years old in October, the youngest daughter is now five and a half. They knew about everything. Maybe not from the very beginning, but we did not hide anything – we said the word “cancer”, talked about the severity of the disease. The children had fears that they might lose their mother. But we talked to them and explained that everyone is mortal. You don’t have to die of cancer, you can die from anything: stumble, fall, drown. The treatment of oncological diseases has advanced today – they are being treated, and quite successfully. To be afraid of cancer, this word and disease is not worth it. I tell the children about this and make it clear by my example.
I have always been very sociable, cheerful, the soul of the company. But it was such a superficial communication. At some point, I realized that I have experience and it is important for me to share it. I don’t need to be the center of attention – I really do n’t like it. I do not give advice, but I can help with my knowledge and, perhaps, show that everything is not so scary. I have no expectations, I am not trying to make money on this, it is important for me to just share. Everything that I feel, without pretense: bad for me, good – I ‘ll write about it.
I do not just say thank you for what I am about everything so telling in instagrame. You feel that you are not alone: there are many of us, and we really understand each other – this is important. As soon as you feel lonely, it seems that no one understands you, a lot of cockroaches come out in your head, fears, problems.
On equal counseling and treatment of cancer
There is such a phenomenon as peer counseling – in particular, in the charity project of the Women’s Health program. Former patients become consultants here – women and girls who have been treated, have gone this way and are ready to help others. They are trained in several stages: seminars, trial consultations. After that, they receive a certificate and start working with people. I have passed only the first stage so far, the second will be in the fall. But I am slowly joining the work of a peer consultant for a ready-made team, let’s say, as a trainee. We travel to hospitals, share knowledge with women who are just at the beginning of their journey. Where to go, what documents to draw up, what you can apply for, where to go. We work in medical institutions and communicate with women who are just preparing for an operation or have already done it. As long as we have more coverage of breast cancer, but we are not standing still, everything will expand – we are engaged in reproductive health.
We do not cure – we do not meddle in doctors’ prescriptions and do not challenge them. We tell you where you can go, we talk about psychological help groups. For example, we just tell you where to go to get a disability. We are not psychologists – we just communicate with other women. Do I have some clients with whom I talk on the phone – talk about everything and not about anything. At this point, it is very important to talk to people who understand you. A person who has already gone through this, practically by default, knows what is happening to you. You can say: “I visited a psychologist, it helped me a lot, I recommend it.” And maybe the person gets off too.
When I found out that I have cancer, I, frankly, were not even very surprised. I can’t say that it was somehow scary – next to me is my sister, who went through this, is alive, healthy, feels great. I was sure that I would go through everything easily, that I was so lucky, I would go through everything with a smile and joy. In principle, this is probably how it happened – for the first time I really did not understand anything , did not feel, did not notice and did not draw any conclusions .
And when there was a relapse, it knocked the ground out from under my feet. It was very scary – I’m here and I realized that it is not so simple. Cancer – it is deadly, and it is not always easy to let go. This is not SARS, it can not be again – and cured, there is only a state of remission. And this is probably the hardest thing to accept. I would like to be treated and forget – but you cannot close your eyes to this. To dwell not necessary, but , and bury our heads in the sand and say that everything that no longer is not worth it. This I already know from experience.
You have to go through different stages: denial, aggression and all the rest. It turns out that I didn’t do it the first time, but I did it the second time. Before, I tried not to take everything to heart, I didn’t want this: “I will think about it tomorrow.” And when there was a relapse, I realized that whatever one may say, responsibility for your life should be taken completely upon yourself. This does not mean that I go to the doctors, I double-check their every word – no, I trust them. But the attitude changed – I became somehow more mature to look at everything.
Now I am recovering. I became a consultant for the Women’s Health program, and when it gets easier, I would like to join the club of leaders of this community. This program brings together active, strong women who have also gone through the disease, and they are ready to do something more. For example, now they have launched an all-Russian program – a bike party. We drove across Moscow with flags “Women’s Health”, “Defeat Cancer”. Both former patients and those who are now undergoing treatment have gathered . This program will now travel across Russia. He will show others that there is no need to be afraid of cancer – even if you get sick, nothing prevents you, conventionally, to get on a bike and go. You can do what you want.
I plan to move in this direction – to help cancer patients. Plus, keep doing your other favorite things. I want to return to my normal, calm life. In September, for example, I will fly to Kaliningrad for the weekend – I really want to see the city. We don’t know how much we have left. It does n’t matter if it’s about cancer or something else. We do not know how much is measured for us, but all that is is ours. I want to enjoy every day, here and now.