CYNTHIA: 2007, AGE 45 

That was the first HPV test diagnosis. The doctor prescribed steroids and inhalers and sent me home. He took x-rays of my chest but never read them. Within a week, I returned to his office for a CA125 test. I could feel fluid moving throughout my chest. He finally took out the X-rays and read them. And he said there appeared to be something in your lungs. Also, he prescribed antibiotics and sent me home. Within a week, I drove myself to the emergency room because I could barely breathe, and my chest was on fire. I was admitted to the hospital, where the doctors diagnosed me with a pleural effusion. Fluid was also spilling into my abdominal cavity. They said there could be three causes for this. Pneumonia. Congestive Heart Failure. Cancer.

Within the week, a blood test and the analysis of the fluid pulled from my lungs indicated cancer. The next couple of days, tests revealed it was Stage IV ovarian HPV cancer. I had a small tumour on my left ovary. (I had been having pain in that area for about 4 years, which I thought was the result of a step aerobics class). There was a large mass on my omentum. The fluid around my lungs contained ovarian cancer cells, and a CAT scan revealed suspicious spots on my kidney and a lymph node in my chest. It was a week after my 45th birthday. My mother was tested and diagnosed with the same CA125 Ovarian level Cancer disease at the same age. She survived 4 years. I began my journey thinking that I would survive. If my mother could undergo chemo, who was I to be a weakling?

I was assigned to a gynecologic oncologist.

I liked him immediately. He prescribed 8 sessions of chemotherapy, carboplatin and taxol, to be followed by surgical removal of my ovaries, omentum, cervix, and appendix. I was fortunately able to take a medical leave from work. I showed up at the infusion clinic dressed with makeup, a packed lunch and inspirational reading. My session took six hours. I was at the clinic longer than anyone there. The nurses were great.

Over the next few months, I got to know them very well, and they advised me on everything from managing chemo side effects to the best mystery novels to read. Of course, I was very ill after each session, and my hair went very fast. I was prone to passing out and three times woke up and found myself slumped on the floor. I had no appetite and would not eat for at least 5 days after a session. Also, I developed acne, sores in my mouth, severe pain in my legs and thighs, and constipation. My brain also got a little foggy, and often I forgot things. But each session, I got up and got nicely dressed.

I found that one week after a session, I began to gain strength until the next session.

Cranberry juice, lean chicken and fish, broccoli, rice, and watermelon (when I could eat) made me strong. Prayer made me even stronger. People from around the world prayed for me. I joined a support group, and those ladies were my sisters. Between chemo sessions, my friend Shirley and I went out for coffee, a cafe, a bookstore browsing, museums, and walks. Every month, we went to the casino. At the end of my chemo, tests revealed my CA125 levels went from 4000 to 19.

I do have a fear that HPV-related cancer will return. And I have learned to live with that fear and keep it in the back of my mind, not the front. Also, I do have a renewed appreciation for each day of life. Since my HPV report, a friend was tested and diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. She was dead within 4 weeks of that diagnosis. Women from my support group have also passed on. My neighbour’s son was gunned down at the age of 25. Each day alive is a good day. For now, I am alive and well. I work each day and do the things I enjoy doing. I’ve applied to attend graduate school. My hope for others who are facing this disease is not to despair. Seek strength from others and appreciate life one day at a time.


N.E.D! It’s been more than 4 years since my fight with metastatic stage IV ovarian HPV cancer. Just saw my oncologist 2 months ago, and my CA125 was 5. I enjoy being with my friends and family, working, and doing the things that make me happy. I thank God for my friends and family for pushing me to get tests for HPV with the oncology nurses and my gynecologic oncologist. The special things I do to try and keep my health are to try and eat right at least half of the time. I try to eat all those foods they say prevent cancer. And I take the herbs and vitamins they say help fight and prevent cancer, like ginger, CoQ10, green tea & capsaicin.

Also, I work hard to keep my stress level down. I took a workshop at the local hospice on preparing for the end of life. Everyone thought that was so weird, but it calmed me down tremendously. I plan on living for a long time, but if this disease returns, I want to fight when it’s good to fight and let go when it’s time to let go.

Most importantly, I keep my CA125 medical test appointments, listen to my doctors’ advice, and always let them know what I am doing and taking. My message to others is to enjoy each day as if it were your last. This life is a journey that eventually ends for all of us. Today, good things are all around. Keep up the good fight.