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Video: Karen Nugent - Ovarian Cancer SurvivorOvarian Cancer Survivor
Cancer Stage IIIA Ovarian Cancer
Completed Treatment 2011
CTCA Hospital Treated at
Care Team Included
Treatments at CTCA
- Is a 5-year ovarian cancer survivor
- Enjoying time with her family and friends
- Celebrating more anniversaries with her husband Jon
- Watching her grandchildren Madison, Brenden and Jack grow
- Working as an elementary school secretary, but looking forward to retirement
- Traveled to Paris, London and other European cities
"My family, friends and CTCA gave me the strength to lift my arms to the sky and say, 'I’m alive and I have hope for the future.'"
Karen Nugent, Lapeer, MI
When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in July 2007, all I could think of was my family. They are my life, my reason to live. I love them all so much.
My children lost their father at a young age and I couldn’t bear the thought that they’d lose me too. And my grandchildren, how could I leave them? And Jon, the love of my life, my husband of only nine years. We have a whole lifetime of anniversaries left to celebrate.
But by the grace of God, my wonderful family and friends, awesome doctors and a fabulous hospital, I am here to tell my story.
From diagnosis through treatment
For about a year, I had been having lower back pain. It was uncomfortable, but I assumed it was nothing more than arthritis. I knew something was not right though when intercourse became painful. I went to see my gynecologist, who did an ultrasound on me. The test revealed a large cyst or tumor on one of my ovaries.
I had surgery to remove the tumor and my ovaries at a local hospital. An oncologist confirmed it was ovarian cancer. He spoke with Jon and me about additional treatment and mentioned the typical survival rates for the disease. But I wasn’t happy with his approach or the set up at the cancer facility.
After a few weeks went by, I became more depressed. I also had developed an oral/throat infection from the antibiotics I took as I recovered from the surgery. I needed a doctor who would pay attention to everything that was going on with me. Thankfully, when I found Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), I got a doctor who took care of all of me and was experienced in treating my disease.
On my first visit to CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical in northern Illinois, I met with Dr. Williams, my gynecologic oncologist. She told us before she would treat me for the cancer we needed to figure out what was going on with my throat and why I felt as though I wanted to vomit all the time.
Dr. Williams used a scope to examine my mouth and throat, and thereby discovered I had an infection known as thrush. She treated me for the thrush and then proposed an ovarian cancer treatment plan, which included chemotherapy.
For about a year, the cancer went into remission after I received the chemotherapy treatment. I then underwent surgery to remove new tumors that had developed in my abdomen. During the surgery, I also received Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC), a heated chemotherapy that was delivered directly to my abdomen. Dr. Brown, who is the head of the HIPEC program at CTCA, performed the procedures.The surgery took approximately six hours and was invasive, but my body seemed to tolerate the chemotherapy and I healed well.
As part of a clinical trial I participated in, tumors that were removed in my surgery were sent to a laboratory to be developed into a vaccine. It took some time for the vaccine to be prepared. Once it was ready, I received three injections containing the vaccine over a seven-week period.
For the next few years, I received additional chemotherapy treatment. In 2011, I had my third surgery. I also received radiation therapy. I did experience back issues and upset bowels as side effects from the radiation. Overall, though, I’ve been able to cope.
Whenever I needed to go to CTCA for treatment or appointments, I would call the travel/scheduling team to set up arrangements. They’d coordinate my flights to and from Flint, Michigan (the big city nearest my home in Lapeer) and Chicago. A driver would pick me up from O’Hare airport in Chicago and take me to CTCA or its nearby Guest Quarters, where I’d stay whenever I was in town.
My favorite driver, Jim, gave the best bear hugs and allowed me to sit in the front seat and chat with him on the way to the hospital. Jim always cares how people are feeling. He also takes it upon himself to get to know the family and friends who come along with patients.
Everybody cares about me at CTCA—from Jim, to the people behind the scenes in the cafeteria, to the doctors and nurses in the surgical suites. They have all touched my life. I am especially grateful for Dr. Williams and Dr. Brown for never giving up on me. Both doctors go out of their way to make me feel comfortable. And, they talk to me like I’m their only patient.
In 2012, I became a five-year survivor of ovarian cancer. My name now appears on a gold leaf on the “Tree of Life” in the hospital’s lobby. Whenever I’m there, I stop and touch my leaf and feel so blessed to have been able to come to CTCA. I get goose bumps thinking of how I got my second chance at life, a chance I will never take lightly or for granted.
Filled with hope
My family, friends and CTCA gave me the strength to lift my arms to the sky and say, “I’m alive and I have hope for the future.”
What a beautiful gift, my life. I can get out of bed in the morning and go to work. I can sleep in on the weekends. I can smell the flowers and the grass being mowed. I can be with family and friends, and I can laugh with my grandchildren. I thank God every day for the gift of life he has given me. I hope and pray it is his wish that my life continues for a very long time. When it does come to an end, I want people to know I did fight the fight, and I did win. I am in a win-win situation and I will continue my fight.
I want to reach out and help every person I can. That includes talking to family members and being there for them. I want to teach others not only to keep hoping, but to have strength and will power to want to go on and live.