My Ovarian Cancer Journey

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April of this year. This is the story of my journey through a (thankfully) short-lived cancer diagnosis, treatment, and removal. During this several month long adventure, I learned a few things about cancer that I’d like to share with others who either may have a friend or loved one afflicted with the disease or may be suffering from it themselves. I’m hoping that my story may help others to gain knowledge of ovarian cancer to better help fight the deadly disease.
*Please note that I am not offering medical advice or a medical opinion. The opinions expressed here are my own.

It began in early March when I noticed an unusual lump in my abdomen. It was small, perhaps only 2-3″ across, but odd none-the-less. I decided to have it checked out by a doctor when it was still there the next week. Three weeks later, through scheduling the appointments for the doctor and subsequent ultrasound, it had grown from a small, hardly noticeable lump to a 4-5″ mass. During the ultrasound, the doctor determined that it was an ovarian cyst. It looked “suspicious”, but nothing that screamed cancer. I was then sent to the OB/GYN for follow-up. When he looked at it, he determined the same thing. It was suspicious, but more than likely benign, a word I heard repeated over and over again. Yet, due to its size and continued quick growth, it needed to be removed right away.

By the time of the surgery, seven weeks later, the cyst was measuring about 7″ around! I looked and felt 5 months pregnant. The surgery was on April 16th, during which the doctor removed the football sized cyst and the ovary it was attached to. Nothing else abnormal was noted. What a relief that it was gone! It was getting hard to bend down and tie my shoes just like when I was pregnant.

The OB came to visit me in recovery the next day and recounted what he had said before surgery. Everything was removed intact and nothing looked unusual. It wasn’t until the next week when I saw him for follow-up that he gave me the bad news. It was malignant. I had a hard time trying to understand how that could be possible. For a year and a half I’d been reading nutritional books and eating a highly nutritional diet. I’d cut out animal products (except fish), so no meat, dairy, or eggs. I increased the whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. They had become the staples of my diet. Earlier that year I had also cut out all fried foods and sugar from my diet. This had been my diet for over a year. The way I was eating, I should be immune to all kind of diseases, including cancer! So how could this happen on this highly-touted whole-foods plant-based diet? Where did I go wrong? I’d done everything the books said was right. I’d read up on nutrition until I thought I’d read it all. You can see now how this cancer diagnosis was just that much more unbelievable. If I’d removed everything from my diet that was cancer forming or promoting, then I was at a loss in guessing what caused it, let alone knowing how to combat it.

I’d gone against all the known risks. I was pre-menopausal, at only 33 years old. (Average age is 55 years old and post-menopausal). I breastfed both my kids for 2 years, just finishing with number 2. I’m a non-smoker or drinker. No known familial incidence of ovarian cancer (though there have been incidence of breast cancer.) I didn’t fit any of the categories for getting ovarian cancer. None of it made any sense.

A lot of prayer and support from my friends and family, I trudged on.

I was then scheduled to see the gynecological oncologist in Denver. It was then decided that I should have a second surgery to explore the possibility of any chance that the cancer had spread or if it had been contained in the removal of the cyst and ovary from the first surgery. That surgery was set for May 19th.

I don’t like to sit idly by and wait for answers to find me. I was going to become knowledgeable about what was going on inside of me. I needed to figure out why, seemingly against all odds, this was happening, so I began to research. There were many questions and the answers never seemed to satisfy my thirst to know more about this unwelcome disease. I found two answers that I’m going to share. One deals with prevention, the other, treatment.

Answer One. One idea led to another and my research led me down paths I hadn’t considered. The first being a possible cause, a vitamin D deficiency, in combination with a lack of calcium in my diet. The previous summer had been exceptionally warm and where in previous years it had been more pleasant, for me the summer of 2013 was miserably hot. It was followed up by a rather cold winter, fraught with polar vortexes dropping temperatures into the negatives for several weeks. Needless to say, we stayed inside much more than in previous years. Vitamin D is a known preventative of some types of cancer.

“Data suggests that vitamin D can be protective against ovarian cancer.”

WebMD published an article which states,

“People with levels below 24 ng/mL [of vitamin D] were nearly three times more likely to have stage III cancer than those with higher vitamin D levels.”

“Based on ecological studies, the incidence of many cancers has been shown to be higher in northern countries, suggesting an association with latitude and solar radiation.”

Study after study and website after website showed the same correlation between the vitamin and the incidence of certain types of cancers. Vitamin D has anti-tumor properties.

Calcium also seems to play a surprising role. If you look at the research that has been done on which group is most susceptible to getting ovarian cancer, it lies with the post-menopausal group…also the group which is prone to osteoporosis. Here’s something interesting though, studies have been done on women (and men for prostate cancer) linking high calcium levels in the blood to the higher risk of cancer. The more advanced the cancer is, the higher the amount of calcium has been found.

Here’s the reason: “The cancer makes calcium leak out into the bloodstream from your bones, so the level in the blood gets too high. The cancer may also affect the amount of calcium that your kidneys are able to get rid of.”

Here’s another tidbit: “Calcium levels in the bloodstream are regulated by PTH, vitamin D, and calcitonin.”

And one from the MayoClinic: “The parathyroid glands maintain proper levels of both calcium and phosphorus in your body by turning the secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) off or on, much like a thermostat controls a heating system to maintain a constant air temperature. Vitamin D also is involved in regulating the amount of calcium in your blood. Normally, this balancing act works well. When calcium levels in your blood fall too low, your parathyroid glands secrete enough PTH to restore the balance. PTH raises calcium levels by releasing calcium from your bones and increasing the amount of calcium absorbed from your small intestine.”

This resounded true for me as well and I quit taking my calcium supplements nearly a year before. I hadn’t checked, but supposed I was getting enough from the food I was already eating. I was wrong. When I tracked my food intake for vitamins and minerals, calcium (in addition to vitamin D) was virtually non-existent. I was actually low in calcium for nearly a year, which caused my body to leach it from my bones in order to sustain me. Answer one.

I began soaking up the sun and taking a calcium supplement. I continued my research under the sun’s mighty rays, getting plenty of the sunshine vitamin while being careful not to get too much.

The possibility of chemotherapy looming on the horizon didn’t look very appealing, so I began looking into complementary and alternative treatments. If I had to do chemotherapy, I wasn’t going to go through it without nutritional help. Wonder drugs and empty testimonials aside, I looked for a scientifically plausible regimen. I found two.

Answer Two. The first is a daily dose of ginger root, namely a substance that is created when the ginger root is dried, called shogaol. Though limited in the number of studies that have so far been done, it has proven to be promising in not only stopping the spread of ovarian cancer, but killing it. Ginger, when taken in a high enough amount, is a potent anti-inflammatory.

“Ginger inhibits growth and modulates secretion of angiogenic factors in ovarian cancer cells. The use of dietary agents such as ginger may have potential in the treatment and prevention of ovarian cancer.”

“Researchers at the ‘University of Michigan’ have showed that ginger root kills ovarian cancer cells by inducing apoptotic and autophagic cell death. ‘In multiple ovarian cancer cell lines, we found that ginger induced cell death at a similar or better rate than the platinum-based chemotherapy drugs typically used to treat ovarian cancer.'”

“6-Shogaol (Alkanone from Ginger) Induces Apoptotic Cell Death”

In other words, ginger makes ovarian cancer cells commit suicide. Answer two.

I had the second surgery just a month after the first, before having enough time to heal from the first one. A week later, I received the results. I was Stage 1a, no additional cancer was found. The malignant cyst and ovary had been removed in the first surgery. Praise God! He answers prayers!

Though my wait from diagnosis to all-clear was laborious, I kept my head up, enjoying each day with a positive attitude as pressing on as if nothing was trying to stand in my way. I replaced worry with engrossing myself in research and prayer. What good does worrying do? We’re told “not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

So what part do I think my uber healthy diet played? My opinion is that it kept the cancer at Stage 1a, contained. At the size the cyst was at removal, nearly 8″, it should have spread — but it didn’t. See the cyst (Only if you dare!) Studies on excess animal proteins, as we commonly see in the Standard American Diet (SAD), have been shown to promote cancer growth. That’s not to say that meat or dairy every now and then is bad for you, but we tend do over do it practically eating it at every meal.

I’ll stick to my “what-in-the-world-DO-you-eat!” diet for now, but I’ll make sure to get some extra sun and spice up my food with ginger every chance I get! God gets all the credit, giving us the tools, knowledge, and people that help us on the way.

Additional Preventatives and Treatments
In my quest for answers, I found many more suggestions of prevention and complementary and alternative treatments, but they rely less on scientific studies than the first two, but still viable none-the-less.

Calcium; Vitamin K2, Vitamin D, and Calcium Paradox; Green Tea; Eat Healthy; Be Active; No Hormone Replacement Therapy; No Talc; Baking Soda (as an alkalizer); Baking Soda and Maple Syrup Regimen