Your name: Colleen Tkachuk
Date of diagnosis: June 18, 2018
Age at diagnosis: 47
Country/state/town: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am: I am a very determined person who stands up for what I believe in. I am there to help others, often more than I help myself.
Ovarian cancer stage/type: 3c low grade serous
The cancer was found when: After having severe abdominal pain and constipation for several months, my GP ran some tests and referred me to a Gastroenterologist (it took one month to get in to see him) who attempted to “scope” me. He could only go in 18cm before something blocked the camera. He then ordered a CT scan (another month wait). Once he had the scan results, he called to let me know that he was referring me to a gynecological oncologist. Having had cancer once before, I knew what an oncologist was, and was quite scared. Upon seeing her, she said ” You have ovarian cancer.” I will never forget it. I was terrified as she started to show and explain the CT scan and what she was going to have to do.
What I want people to know about ovarian cancer: This is not simply a cancer, but a terminal disease. It never really goes away. There are many different treatments and many different kinds of ovarian cancer so it’s harder to treat than many other cancers. Women need to be checked regularly and educated on what to watch for as it is most often found in later stages.
The biggest challenges about ovarian cancer: Not knowing what type of treatment will work or if ANY treatment will work. Also knowing the statistics and death rates does not give a lot of hope. We need more research being done for treatments on the rarer versions of this cancer as most treatments seem to be focused on the more common types. Also, educating our doctors to check for ovarian cancer and not pushing women away when they come in concerned about things that are wrong with their body saying it’s just a “female thing”.
My hope for the future: I hope that as long as this cancer exists, women know what to look for so it can be caught early, treated, and done. My first cancer is gone as it was caught early because I knew what it was when I saw it. If it could be like that for ovarian cancer, I’d be happy.
How your donations would impact me: It would give me hope that research and education are being done to save lives like mine and women and girls (this is not just an adult cancer) around the world.
What I would say to someone else going through this: Don’t give up hope. There is new research being done and new treatments being created daily.
Postscript: Colleen passed away early March 2022. Colleen was a volunteer for Ovarian Cancer Canada’s Patient Partner’s in Research program – where she provided a strong voice for low-grade serous cancer. “If I can help review grant applications and work with researchers so that they know we are real people with real issues, I will speak up.” In 2021 her efforts were recognised with the the 2021 Peggy Truscott Award of Hope.