Jessica Cornwell, Southside, AL


MeOn April 15, 2013 my family and I found out that I had ovarian cancer, I was 39. My diagnosis shocked everyone including my oncologist, however it did not shock me. For months I knew something was wrong and I would be lying if I said cancer was never a thought. When that thought would cross my mind I would quickly dismiss it and instead blame everything on something else. I blamed my weight gain on my bad thyroid, I blamed the pains in my side and back on working out too hard. I blamed being tired on my suspicion that I could be pre-menopausal. I always found something to blame my symptoms on.

I was fortunate that while at a visit with my GYN he ordered a transvaginal ultrasound. I have a history of ovarian cysts and so he ordered one every few years and this happened to be the year for one. While I waited for blood to be drawn he reviewed the ultrasound where a mass was present. It wasn’t clear that it was or was not cancer so he ordered the CA-125 to be added to my blood work (he was testing me to see if I was entering menopause). A couple of weeks later I received an email from Labcorp that my blood work was in. I was sitting at work alone when I saw that my CA-125 was elevated. I didn’t know what the CA-125 and so I was floored when I found out that it was used sometimes to detect ovarian cancer. My CA-125 however, as my Gyn explained was elevated but wasn’t terribly high at 53. He stated that if it were cancer he felt pretty confident that we had caught it early. His office was wonderful and called UAB to get me an appointment with an oncologist there. As it would happen the Dr. he wanted me to see had a cancellation for the very next day. I left my Gyn’s office in tears, fearful for what lay ahead because I knew at that moment that I had cancer.
The next day at the oncologist visit I was given the option to have just the mass removed, a partial hysterectomy or a full, I opted for the full. My poor oncolgist was fairly confident that I would be cancer free because my CA-125 wasn’t very high. HE stated that normally women who have ovarian cancer see their CA-125 reach into the 500′s so when April 15th came he was shocked. He had to tell my family not only that I had cancer but that he was afraid we were looking at late Stage 2 or early Stage 3, and on April 16th he apologized to me. I admired him for being able to tell me that he was shocked to find that his initial thoughts were wrong.
I was released from the hospital on the 16th and on the 18th I got the news that I was lucky and I was Stage 1. After receiving a cancer diagnosis to find out that your cancer isn’t as “bad” as they thought, is like winning the lottery.
We opted for chemo to give me a better chance of not having a reoccurence and on May 14th I had my first round. On August 27th I rang the bell signaling that I had made it over the hill and to the finish line.
My CT scan is scheduled for September 18th and I am not lying when I say I am scared. I am sure that all women go through being scared when waiting to see if they will be cancer free. No matter the outcome my life has been changed forever by my diagnosis and I will spend the rest of my life trying to educate people on Ovarian Cancer.