Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Story of My Diagnosis

My name is Hillary and I have Clear Cell Ovarian Cancer. Here is my story.

I've been living in my little bungalow with my boyfriend, Dan, for a little over 4 years. We have a 3 year old son, Tristan. We had been thinking of getting married but it hasn't been a priority in our lives since we have so many other things going on. I guess you could call us hippies.

We decided we wanted another little bundle of joy to add to our family in the summer of 2006 and, lo and behold, I found out I was pregnant by the end of the summer and the due date was St. Patty's Day of 2007. I had a pretty uneventful first trimester. During week 20 I had an ultrasound. The technician noticed a cyst on my right ovary that measured about 5cm in diameter, but said it was very common to have "pregnancy cysts" and that they would watch it but it would probably go away on its own. I wasn't really worried.

As I started to get bigger and rounder, I started getting more exhausted and my back started to hurt, just like any normal pregnancy. I didn't have any other complaints. I'd been through this before with my first pregnancy and I actually felt pretty good comparatively. During week 34 I had another ultrasound and no one said anything about the cyst. I had actually forgotten about it by that time. They did find that our soon-to-be little girl was transverse breech, meaning that she was not in the head down position, but she was kind of stuck sideways. No wonder I was so uncomfortable! I'm a pretty skinny girl normally, so the back pain now made sense. One thing I did NOT want was a c-section so we decided to try and turn her in a procedure called a version scheduled for the next week.

I was not looking forward to a medical intervention such as a version so I had been trying various methods at home to get her to turn on her own. I used a flashlight to shine on my belly where I wanted her head to go and a bag of frozen peas where I wanted her feet to be. I did this every night until our appointment and I believe I felt her move in the proper direction. When we got to our appointment at the hospital, they had to perform another ultrasound to see where she was and if she had turned on her own. The little bugger had! She was facing south. That was very exciting.

The technician kept asking us questions about if this was a normal pregnancy and if we had anything we were wondering about. She left the room to get the doctor who was originally going to perform the version and when he returned things started getting odd. He looked at the pictures taken from the ultrasound and said that yes, she had moved, but that there was a very large cyst on my right ovary. We had forgotten all about that cyst. It now measured 11cm in diameter (the baby's head measured close to the same at that point) and was covering the birth canal. He said we would have to have a c-section because he didn't think the baby would be able to pass through, and they would want to look at the cyst anyway.

I was devastated. I felt so out of control. For some reason I was most upset about not being able to deliver her in the event that I had to do it on my own, like if I got locked in a trunk, or got lost in the woods or something. I eventually got over it as best I could and started focusing on getting through the surgery and healing. By week 37 I was put on bed rest due to extreme fatigue and back pain because of the cyst and we scheduled the c-section for week 39. I was feeling healthy and ready to have my body back.

The c-section was so scary. I had never had surgery before, so I didn't know what to expect. They wouldn't let Dan in the OR while they were inserting the spinal anesthetic so I was really having a tough time with trying to relax. Once they got me on the table and Dan by my side, I felt better. My OB started the procedure at 10:30 and she was born at 10:37 am. During the time we were oh-ing and ah-ing over our newborn, Maja, and laughing about how we thought she'd be so big when she only weighed 6 pounds 15 ounces, my doctor was inspecting my ovary. She sent a frozen section down to pathology to be tested and was waiting on the results. It was taking a very long time for them to get back to her. I ended up being open on the table for somewhere around 45 minutes I could tell they were getting anxious to close me up. They finally did and I went to recovery. That was a Monday.

I was in some pain, but I recovered pretty well that week. I remember telling my doctor I felt like I could run a marathon. I was ready to go home on Friday. Friday morning at 7 am, my doctor came in and woke us all up. She said she had to talk to us. She told us that she had to remove the entire ovary which suspected she would, and that the results had come back from pathology finally. She said the reason it had taken so long was because the pathologist couldn't believe what he was seeing and had to do more tests to make sure. I had Clear Cell Ovarian Cancer which was a very rare form of Ovarian Cancer and it was very aggressive. The mean age of onset for this type was 57 years old and I was only 31. I could not believe what I was hearing. I didn't cry. I had a gorgeous newborn to add to my great family and I was so happy, how could I worry about myself now? I guess I would have to put off that marathon.


Kristin said...

Hillary! I'm so glad you're sharing your story. We miss you so much at work and think about you every day.

Stephanie said...

Hillary, you are so courageous and inspiring. I really admire how frank and honest you about everything that's happened. This blog is going to be a huge hit!

Molly said...

Hillary, I am soooo proud of you. You are so inspiring... I don't know how you do it all. You stay strong no matter what life throws at you, and for this, you are truly my hero. I'm glad you have a place where you can write whatever is on your mind; I think it'll help a lot. I love you!!!

Cousin Laura said...

I, like everyone else, am very proud of you. You really are a courageous woman. You can only be optimistic and enjoy your family and your life during this time. I am optimistic for you and send all my love to you, Dan and the two little ones.

Aunt L said...

What a good idea, Hillary. Much too hard to repeat all the details to everyone and try to remember what you've said or not said. You are truly amazing dear niece. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers; we think of you every day! Love, Aunt L

Anonymous said...

Your strength and courage are inspiring to me and I am sure many others. While you fight the battle of this cancer I hope you know that you are treated by caring professionals, comforted by a loving family, and protected by unseen angels. We are here for you, Dan, Tristan, and Maja. I talk to the angels everyday for you.


Miranda said...

You are such a brave and wonderful person. You always find the beauty in everything. I feel so lucky to have you and Dan as friends. I miss you guys and think of you often. Take care and stay strong.. Give my love to the wee ones and I will see you July!!


Makaela said...

Hillary -
I love you and thank you for sharing your story. I know it's been tough - but you've been such a trooper as have Dan and the family. I love you and am here if you need anything. Thank you for being you! M

kriegsj said...


You will make it through this. You are the toughest 100 pound girl I know. Haa. Bruce and I will watch the kids anytime - really. Don't hesitate to call me. 913-244-9010
Love Stacy

Anonymous said...

Hey Hillary -- I just wanted to let you know that I am thinking about you.

Anonymous said...

Hillary- I love you soooo very, very much. You are truly an inspiration to me and I thank you every day for showing me courage. I know we will all come out the other side of your chemo with more love, understanding, and compassion than we started with. I am always there for you.
Love, Mom

Anonymous said...


Ever since we were kids and I followed you around like a puppy dog, I have idolized you. You are the person I go to if I have a problem, the person I look to if I need guidance, the person who keeps me sane. You have always been inspirational to me, and now more than ever. I love you, and I am sorry if I don't say that enough. If you need anything let me know, I will always be here for you.
Love you,

jess said...

I suffer from a lot of back pain due to a car accident when I was a child. When it happened I was in pain for a while but after I healed I had very little trouble until I was 15 and my muscles started to develop, I started getting a lot of lower back pain and have suffered with it ever since. That is until recently when I stumbled across memory foam mattresses. They adjust to the shape and weight of my body to support my back perfectly and let me sleep soundly. I can’t even imagine being able to sleep without my memory foam mattress anymore!

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