Living life, finding joy in the midst of a cancer diagnosis
Colleen was leading a very full life. After relocating from Seattle to the Dayton area in 2010 for her husband's job, she was enjoying her own jewelry business, which she calls "Fleurish Studio." "Life was good," she remembers. "I was creating, I was traveling, I was being published in magazines."
But one day in 2012, Colleen felt something wasn't right. She went to her gynecologist, who did some tests and found multiple masses in her pelvis. Colleen was referred to Thomas Reid, MD, an oncologist at Kettering Medical Center. Colleen learned that she had advanced ovarian cancer; at about the same time, her annual mammogram revealed breast cancer as well. Later tests showed that Colleen carries the BRCA-1 gene, a genetic mutation that greatly increases a woman's risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
Colleen first had an optimal de-bulking with Dr Reid and then chemotherapy which was targeted to address both her breast and ovarian cancer. At this same time Roxanne Weighall, MD, a breast surgeon was consulted and Colleen and Dr. Weighall together, decided that once her chemotherapy was completed, because of the BRCA-1 mutation a bi-lateral mastectomy followed by reconstruction would be the best option, which would lesson her chances of a recurrence. Colleen was then sent for a consultation with plastic surgeon Steven Schmidt, MD, who would do the reconstruction phase. Colleen's cancer team are all part of the Kettering Health Network, which has helped to foster open and ongoing communication between all three Physicians when any issues have arisen.
Three years after her inittial diagnosis, she returns to Kettering Medical Center periodically for treatment and follow-up. In that time, Colleen says she has grown very close to her cancer team, including the compassionate oncology nurses and staff. "They're like family," Colleen says. "We cry together, we laugh together. There aren't words to describe what it feels like to know that they care."
As she reflects on her experience, Colleen has some encouraging words for other women facing a battle with cancer. "Stage IV ovarian cancer is not a death sentence," she counsels. "You CAN thrive, live your life and find joy, and everyone at Kettering Cancer Care will help you do that."