Advanced Ovarian Cancer: 4 Things to Know

By Linda Dzobiek

I have been living with ovarian cancer for 13 years. I was diagnosed at age 53 with Stage 3C ovarian cancer, and after receiving care near my home in Providence, Rhode Island, my doctor referred me to Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers for a clinical trial. I have been in treatment for 9 out of the 13 years since my diagnosis, and throughout my time as a cancer patient, I’ve experienced many ups and downs. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Advanced ovarian cancer patient Linda Dzobiek and Christin Whalen, RN, BSN, OCN.
Advanced ovarian cancer patient Linda Dzobiek and Christin Whalen, RN, BSN, OCN.
  • Clinical trials are important. Many of us are diagnosed with ovarian cancer when it is already advanced, and when there might not be enough standard treatments. As a result, I have become a cheerleader for clinical trials. Some patients might think that a clinical trial is a last resort, and that they will become lab rats if they participate in one, but this is not the case. I am currently participating in a clinical trial that tests the combination of a PARP inhibitor (olaparib) with a kinase inhibitor. Being in a clinical trial is a big commitment of time, but well worth it.
  • Ovarian cancer can be genetic. If you have ovarian cancer, it is important to be tested to see if you have any genetic mutations such as BRCA-1 or BRCA-2. My own family history turned out to be complicated. I tested positive for BRCA-2, although this was not the cause of my ovarian cancer. There is a history of breast cancer on my husband’s side, and his sister has ovarian cancer. My daughters were tested and one has BRCA-2; the other, BRCA-1.
  • Living with cancer is not easy, especially when it becomes long-term. I have had a lot of surgeries, including a colostomy, and many types of chemotherapy and other drugs. I was on chemo for four years straight. I had to leave my job overseeing a health care program for the homeless, but I still use my experience as a nurse in my patient advocacy work.
  • Cancer changes your relationships. Even though you have survived, your experience affects everyone around you. Cancer has taken a toll on my husband, Joe, but with support we continue to navigate these sometimes difficult waters. In my larger circle, I found that some people step up, and others cannot. I made new friends from the cancer world. I attend a support group and appreciate the camaraderie that I have with other patients from different walks of life, because cancer is our shared experience.

Learn more about ovarian cancer from the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber.

2 thoughts on “Advanced Ovarian Cancer: 4 Things to Know”

  1. I am a 66yr. Old, a Stage 4, 10+yr. Uterine cancer survivor with continuous lifelong treatment…survived Hodgkins at age 17….also suffered 2 subacknoid bleeds in ’96….starting back on low dose Taxol for some recent slow progression….have had many many many different “cocktails” of chemo over the years…all treatment and brillliant Drs at MGH….God’s Blessings to all those surviving patients of all cancers…and their families…there is amazing strength in the power of prayer.

  2. Congratulations to you! I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage III B in 2013 and have been on various chemo regimens, including a couple of clinical trials for most of the past 4 years at Yale. I am sure that you as a nurse, and I as a nurse practitioner, should be doing something nationally to change some of the terminology and outlook for those of us surviving with cancer — not survivors OF cancer. The issues and needs are quite different than those who are going in for a chemo treatment with other cancers and that is likely the cure for them. There are feelings of happiness, guilt, sadness, and everything in between. Praying for the cure though!

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