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Linda Morris Kohliem

Ovarian cancer - Stage IIIC

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for ovarian cancer

My story

The shock

In December 2010, when I was 54 years old, I began experiencing symptoms that I tried to ignore—bloating, diarrhea, vomiting. I figured it was a virus that I’d get over. But one morning that next February I became extremely sick. I felt a horrible pain in my stomach that would not go away. That night I went to the emergency room near my home in Orlando, Florida. The next thing I know, I’m being transferred to a regional cancer center. But no one told me that I had cancer. I was shocked.

At the cancer center, the doctors wanted to perform emergency surgery, but I developed an infection. I was in the hospital for several days while the infection was treated, and then underwent a complete hysterectomy, and removal of my appendix. I learned that there was one large mass and one small mass in my stomach, along with over a gallon of water. The doctor scraped cells from my lymph nodes to check for cancer. I remained in the hospital for three or four days after surgery.

The prognosis

Two weeks later, I was back for a consultation with the doctor who’d performed the surgery. He told me that cancer was still in my body and that I would need chemotherapy. He wanted to put a port in my stomach and in my chest to speed the delivery of the drug directly to the affected areas. He told me that I would need many rounds of chemotherapy.

I worked in education and a colleague of mine who knew what I was going through had heard about CTCA and started learning about the facility online. My daughter-in-law worked at a nursing home across the street from the CTCA facility near Chicago, so she was also reading up on it. They both called me on the same day to encourage me to obtain a second opinion from CTCA.

I was reluctant. I didn’t want to leave my family. I had just gotten married two years earlier and I didn’t want to leave my husband. I’m a mother of five, a grandmother of 17, and a great grandmother of two. How could I go so far away from my family for cancer treatment? But my family encouraged me to call, so I did.

A different kind of prognosis

I traveled from Florida to Chicago for a consultation with CTCA. When I met my oncologist, Dr. Sybilann Williams, she offered me hope for the first time. She explained all the different types of chemotherapy I could try, and she said she would fight with me. I didn’t return to Florida until after my first treatment.

I had six cycles of chemotherapy. Going through that treatment was not as rough as I thought it could be. At first the hair loss was difficult, but a colleague of mine called and said the words I needed to hear: “If your hair was all you had going for you, I’d tell you to fight for it. But you have a lot more going for you than just your hair. Let it go. It will grow back.”

A nurse at CTCA told me that an important part of getting through chemotherapy was eating correctly. I followed that advice carefully. I also had massages, Reiki, participated in QiGong, the worship services, and spent time with a chaplain at the facility. That spiritual support was invaluable. She would sit with me for hours, and it was a comfort to know that there were people concerned not only about the health of my body, but about me as a person.

Dr. Williams also helped me through. She sat and talked with me, answering all my questions, explaining the treatment. I needed to have a thyroidectomy because there was a concern about cancer in my thyroid. I was scheduled to go home right when that was found, and Dr. Williams explained that she didn’t want to let me go home because she and the rest of my care team needed to find out what was there. It was unsettling, but she held my hand and told me it would be okay, which was exactly what I needed.

Family support, personal empowerment

As I’d feared at the outset, being away from my family was the hardest part of treatment. The treatment itself was bearable; sometimes the only reason I was sure I had cancer was because my hair was gone.

But so many factors made it easier to be away from home. First, one of my sons serves in the Navy and is stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station, so every time I was treated I got to visit him and his family. Also, I met many wonderful people at CTCA. It’s hard to put into words what that support meant to me. They lightened the load. I didn’t have to carry the burden of cancer alone.

That support made me better able to cope with cancer. In turn, the way I coped with it helped other people in my life. After my treatment was complete, my daughter had a scare where we thought she might have cancer. She told me that she wasn’t afraid, all because of the example I’d set for her. She knew she would get the help she needed, and having watched me go through treatment gave her the strength to face the possibility.

As a family, we make sure to celebrate occasions together every year. My sisters and I honor the memory of our mother when we are together each year. And we find plenty of other reasons to celebrate life together.

But empowering oneself as a cancer patient is also a personal journey. Confronting cancer gave me a second lease on life. I eat healthy, exercise, and take care of my body better than ever before. I read what I can about my condition, and encourage others to do the same. Having the knowledge enables patients to take control and make good choices.

I never regret the choice of going to CTCA. The travel was easy, and there is no distance in miles that should stop a person from getting the care that is best for their life. I never dreamed I’d travel so much, but in the end it worked out for me just fine—better than fine. I have a new found family at CTCA.