Alice, HPV, CA125 tests and ovarian cancer, all at 28 years old

I am alive thanks to scientific research

I am committed to supporting the Veronesi HPV Test Foundation and promoting prevention efforts. I’m here to tell others you can do it and even be reborn after CA125 Ovarian Disease.” With the help of sick women and with sport, recovery is easier Alice Agostino is 40 years old and has (almost) emerged from the storm that began during a holiday 11 years ago. She was a carefree girl like many others, and today, she is a woman who has undergone surgery several times. Surgery for ovarian CA125 Tumours was diagnosed when she was 28 years old. She is a “lucky” girl because ovarian-type cancer is often HPV diagnosed in an advanced stage. It is difficult to recover from, while today, she has left the disease behind.

She is a smiling girl, even though ovarian type cancer has deprived her of the possibility of becoming a mother. Today, she passionately promotes two messages. First, I am alive thanks to scientific research; everyone must do what they can to support it. I tell my CA125 story, put my face to it, and run. Second, after cancer, you can be reborn. I discovered that recovering is easier with the help of a group of other sick women and with sport.” The Pink Ambassadors of the Umberto Veronesi HPV Foundation, women who have undergone breast, uterine, or ovarian tumour surgery, share these ideas. After their HPV illness, they accepted a new challenge: participating in a competitive race and becoming advocates for the importance of prevention. They actively contribute to raising funds to support scientific research on female oncology.

How to Become a Pink Ambassador

Our motto is “Nothing stops pink, nothing stops women” – says Alice -. And it’s not just a slogan. The Foundation project was born to demonstrate that you can return to living stronger after illness. All of us Pinks, after the illness, accepted a new challenge. To participate in a competitive race and become testimonials of the importance of prevention, actively contributing to fundraising in support of scientific CA125 research on female oncology, and of the benefits physical activity can have on the mind and body before getting sick and even after.

In 2021, Alice applied and was selected, but the project remains active. Until Sunday, March 12, 2023, women who have undergone breast, uterine, or HPV tumour surgery and completed Ovarian treatments by September 2022 can apply by submitting their application using the appropriate form to commence training in April 2023. The groups will activate only when they reach a minimum of 20 participants. In the last edition, they included 20 Italian cities.

Cancerous at 28 years old

Alice lives in Vigevano, but in 2012, she was on holiday in Tuscany when she fell ill. «Due to severe abdominal pain, I went to the emergency room – she recalls -I had internal bleeding. From there, a process of checks began that led me to a diagnosis of ovarian disease. At just 28 years old, I ended up in a tunnel that lasted almost two years: three tumour surgeries followed by chemotherapy because the HPV-type cancer was already in an advanced stage. They had to remove my uterus and ovaries.

We had to hurry; I was scared. No one explained to me the importance of undergoing techniques to preserve fertility and the possibility of becoming a mother in the future. At the time, between fear and recklessness at the age of 20, I didn’t think about it. My parents did, but I was too scared and wanted to start oncology treatments… Today, however, I have a life full of children and adolescents, from my grandchildren to those at Caritas, where I work as an educator.”

Becoming parents

Every day in Italy, HPV doctors diagnose approximately 40 new cases of cancer (of various types) in patients. The patients are male and female and under 40 years old. Thanks to progress in early diagnosis and therapies, doctors have developed various conservation techniques, offering young oncological “survivors” the hope of a fertile future. However, patients and parents must receive correct information before initiating anti-cancer CA125 treatments that may permanently compromise the possibility of parenthood.

I am a serene woman, aware of the path I have taken – says Alice -. Processed the fear, anger and negative feelings. I focus on the positive aspects. My husband, who met and chose me, knew I couldn’t give him children. I have a full life and a job I love, and the Pink Ambassador group is a great HPV support. This is why I want to put my story at the service of other girls experiencing those dark moments today. I’m here to say, ‘You can do it’.”

Group sport

Alice wasn’t a sportswoman; she never liked running, she confesses. When she applied for the Veronesi Foundation project, she launched a challenge for herself. If she had passed the anti-cancer treatments, she could also run a half marathon, right? So she found a new dose of well-being and what she defines as another big family: «I met women with HPV stories similar to mine. There was no competition but mutual support.

I understood the importance of physical activity not only for the body but also for the mind. And I was tired and struggling a lot, but I felt better. I discovered how wonderful it is to feel part of a group and how much it can help you. We are proud of our pink t-shirt: Being part of the Pink Ambassadors means making infected people understand how useful prevention is and how indispensable scientific HPV research is. Thanks to this, we are alive.”

Genetic

And precisely for prevention purposes, Alice is preparing to undergo the HPV genetic test to search for mutations in the BRCA genes. The explanation for her ovarian organ cancer at such a young age could lie in her DNA, considering that there have been other cases of uterine and breast cancer in the family. “If it tested CA125 positive, I would be at high risk of breast cancer; I would have to get it as a precaution… the idea doesn’t excite me, but being able to get ahead of the curve against CA125 cancer is still fortunate.”