Kari Neumeyer of Bellingham, Washington, was diagnosed with stage 4 low-grade serous ovarian cancer in 2020 at the age of 44.
It was a dermatologist, not a gynecologist, who delivered the news, after a biopsy of a small growth removed from Kari’s navel. To her knowledge, she hadn’t experienced any of the textbook symptoms of ovarian cancer.
“Looking back, now I can think of times my lower back hurt, or I had increased frequency of urination or heartburn, but nothing I thought was severe enough to mention to a doctor,” she said.
Scans showed tumors in each ovary and one in the center of her abdomen that spread through her umbilicus out her navel.
“If my cancer hadn’t found its way out of my body through my belly button, it might not have been discovered until after it disrupted other essential organs like my liver, kidneys or lungs,” she said. “My belly button saved my life.”
Three rounds of chemotherapy failed to have any effect on the tumors, but her gynecologic oncologist removed all of the cancer she could see. Kari takes the aromatase inhibitor Letrozole and has had no evidence of disease since her surgery.
“I am likely to have a recurrence eventually. Even with the removal of all those organs, the cancer can come back elsewhere,” she said. “I don’t feel any closer to dying. If it comes back, by the time it comes back, I hope ovarian cancer research will have led to better treatments or a cure.”