How one woman found empowerment through her journey to ovarian cancer

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Peggy Pickett wants to raise awareness of the need for early detection, the value of self-advocacy, and the importance of supporting the patient community.

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Peggy Pickett, 57, lived a full and active life – working a full-time job she loved, travelling, volunteering, knitting, playing guitar and enjoying time with her family.

In early 2012, she felt a strange pain on the upper right side of her abdomen. As a diabetic, she regularly went to her family doctor and often spoke to him about it. “He basically dismissed it as a muscle strain and nothing that couldn’t be fixed with proper diet and exercise,” says Peggy.

A long two-year road to diagnosis

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to describe her condition to her doctor, Peggy decided to stop speaking to her doctor about it. But the pain continued, and in September 2013 she suffered an agonizing episode. Peggy couldn’t remain silent any longer, something had to be done immediately.

Her GP ordered an ultrasound, which she received in December. That same evening, her GP called to report that the results showed something suspicious. Peggy was immediately referred to a cancer center for further testing. Six days later, a gynecologic oncologist told her she had two tumors — one the size of a honeydew melon on her right ovary and another the size of an orange or small grapefruit on her left.

In January 2014, an operation confirmed the diagnosis of advanced high-grade serous ovarian cancer. There were 11 tumor sites and multiple tumor clusters, including some on her liver. Peggy finally had her answer. It turned out that the pain on her upper right side was from the tumors on her diaphragm. “They twisted with movement or breathing, and I lived with that for two years,” she says.

A month later, on her 50th birthdayth On her birthday, Peggy started her first chemotherapy.

It is imperative to be aware of the early signs

Typical symptoms include bloating, eating disorders, pain and changes in bladder habits – but these non-specific symptoms can easily be mistaken for other benign conditions. A woman can also have other symptoms, like Peggy did, that don’t seem to be related to ovarian cancer. “The pain I had on my right side wasn’t a classic symptom of ovarian cancer,” says Peggy.

It is this awareness and understanding of early signs that is critical to detection and treatment. According to Marni Freeman, Medical Director at GSK Canada, “Raising awareness of ovarian cancer, including the signs and symptoms, is critical. Well-informed women have a better chance of detecting the disease early and having a positive outcome,” says Freeman. “With the voice of patients at the heart of our mission, at GSK we are committed to meeting unmet patient needs by developing innovative medicines that help improve the quality of life and outcomes for Canadian women living with this disease. “

From patient to advocate – for herself and for other women

Peggy has worked through her anger at her dismissed complaints. “I had stopped being a self-advocate and I now realize that doctors cannot diagnose what they are not told. If you don’t suspect it, you won’t detect it, and if you don’t detect it, you can’t treat it,” she says.

Then something changed after her second round of chemo. “I felt the need to learn more about what was happening so I could make informed decisions,” says Peggy.

She made contact Ovarian Cancer Canada to request a free copy of his resource book. “This was a pivotal moment in going from being a patient to being a self-advocate,” she says.

Rather than wait for her treatment to end and then resume her life, Peggy made a choice: live as much as the day could hold, find good sources of information, and share the power of her experience rather than give that power to a path . “I wanted to be the world’s leading expert on Peggy, and as such I have become a valuable member of my medical team,” she says.

While Peggy went through three recurrences, two more rounds of chemotherapy and two rounds of radiation, her responsible approach to self-advocacy ensures she has access to the latest and most effective treatments for her needs. She is now a volunteer at Ovarian Cancer Canada and is constantly looking for ways to improve outcomes for women living with the disease. “Educating myself about my illness and the medical system and empowering myself and other women was my way out of the swoon,” says Peggy.

Her advice to other women: “Become the world’s leading expert on yourself. Know yourself, know your body and know your options.

visit www.ovariancanada.org for more information and support.


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