Jennifer of Frederick, Maryland, was diagnosed with stage 3A low-grade serous ovarian cancer in 2020 at the age of 45.
She had noticed increased bloating and need to urinate, and periodic urinary incontinence for about a year. She also noticed disproportionate weight gain in her stomach.
“I knew it wasn’t normal but I made excuses for it,” she said. “It’s middle-age. It’s the start of perimenopause. I’m becoming lactose-intolerant. I’m becoming gluten-intolerant. Rinse and repeat.”
She worried that her doctor would dismiss her symptoms. However, during an annual physical, Boyer’s doctor suspected that her uterus was enlarged and tilted, so she ordered pelvic and transvaginal ultrasounds.
The scans revealed masses on both ovaries, which doctors believed were cysts, so they told Boyer to come back in six weeks to see if they’d grown.
“I almost canceled the appointment because of COVID and the fact that I’d been given no real sense that this was possibly an urgent situation,” she said.
At that appointment, the doctor told her that her uterus was not titled or enlarged, but that he could feel a “palpable mass.” Her blood work showed an elevated level of CA-125.
Exploratory surgery was scheduled for a couple of weeks later.
“My gyno came to see me the next day and broke the news,” she said. “One of the first things out of his mouth was, ‘It was a mess in there’ — a fact which now makes me laugh. I’ve considered having my first tattoo say that.”
After surgery, she underwent 17 chemotherapy sessions.
“Although I was initially very tight-lipped outside of my immediate circle of family and friends, once I got the full pathology report and staging, I opened up with a very long post on Facebook and, going forward, I remained very vocal about the cancer and what I was going through,” she said. “Openness means education. I knew next to nothing about ovarian cancer before I was diagnosed, other than the fact that it killed Gilda Radner and could cause bloating. Had I known more about it, it’s possible I would’ve sought help sooner.”