Kara Nissen of Moreno Valley, California, was 30 when she was diagnosed with stage 3AII low-grade serous ovarian cancer in 2019.
“In March of 2019, I was having extreme lower right abdomen pain along with the feeling of frequent urination and inconsistent cycles,” she said.
She chalked up the symptoms up to endometriosis, which she was diagnosed with 10 years earlier.
“In April of 2019 I went in for my annual physical where my doctor did an abdominal check, and when she pushed on my right lower abdomen the pain was so bad I almost jumped off the table,” Kara said.
A transvaginal ultrasound showed a mass on her right ovary.
“I was scheduled for surgery that September, still never thinking ovarian cancer was possible,” she said. “My CA-125 prior to surgery was only 285 and I was still convinced it had something to do with endometriosis.”
The ovarian cancer diagnosis came on her fifth day in the hospital after a complete hysterectomy.
“It was Friday, September 13, the day I’ll never forget!” she said. “When the doctor walked in, I could see in his face something was wrong. I remember him starting with, ‘I am so sorry I have to be the one to tell you this but you have ovarian cancer.’ He continued with, ‘You are way too young to have to deal with this.’ ”
Kara is grateful to the doctors who took her seriously.
“I was always scheduled as a first priority, and every test, blood test and radiology scan was done to be absolutely positive of my diagnosis,” she said.
After the surgery that removed the cancer, Kara was put on the aromatase inhibitor Letrozole.
“The biggest challenge for me since being diagnosed would be the physical changes,” Kara said. “The scars, the menopause, the infertility. Knowing that in my group of friends at now 33 I’m the only one experiencing these changes while everyone else can still experience life as a normal middle-aged woman.
“This is something that can happen to anyone. It could be you, or someone you know. It’s so important that we start talking about it, and invest in research to improve survival.”