Hey!! I am Maurissa, and I am an ovarian cancer overcomer (survivor). There are multiple types of ovarian cancer, and depending on when the disease is diagnosed, it is survivable. So, a little about me-I am a Cali girl, so of course I LOVE the beach. I have an introverted soul and an extroverted personality. Most days you will catch me laughing and smiling. My nieces are the loves of my life, and I spend as much time with them as I can. Although I don't watch it as much anymore, I am a die-hard SF 49ers NFL fan (yes, that last game was heartbreaking). While I would not consider myself a "foodie", I am greedy 😀 and I enjoy eating the foods that I love. I enjoy reading, shopping, sleeping, and the beautiful Cali sunshine. I also love Chandra and Talking Angels!
My cancer journey started in late 2011, when I had unexplained constipation, urinary incontinence, irregular periods, severe cramps, and occasional stomach problems. After being misdiagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, I was eventually diagnosed with fibroids. In August 2012, I had a total hysterectomy, which included the removal of my fallopian tubes and right ovary. Due to some cell abnormalities, my doctor referred me to a gynecologic oncologist, and in September 2012, I was diagnosed with pre-cancerous non-malignant tumors. During this time, I had two debulking (removal of tumors) surgeries, and after the second debulking surgery, it was confirmed that I had low-grade ovarian cancer.
In February 2018, at the age of 49, my pre-cancerous cells progressed to low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC, aka low-grade ovarian cancer), which is a very rare form of ovarian cancer. Fortunately, I had been under the care of my gynecologic oncologist since 2012, and previously had debulking surgeries. So, unlike most women who are initially diagnosed with late stage (3 or 4) ovarian cancer, my cancer remained contained in my abdominal and pelvic regions, and did not spread or penetrate any other organs, except for my right kidney. Currently, I have a ureter stent in that kidney, due to atrophy and the ureter being impacted by one of the tumors.
In November 2018, I had a fourth surgery, followed by six rounds of chemo. I was in remission for about one year, until 2020, when I had a reoccurrence. After trying a couple of maintenance therapies, we decided that I needed to begin chemo again. So, in February 2021, I had an additional six rounds of chemo with Avastin (another maintenance therapy). I have been on Avastin since then.
Today (2/23/2022), I am doing well and feeling great. I truly believe that, although I am technically stage 3, my recovery has been that of someone diagnosed with early stage (1 or 2) ovarian cancer, due to me being under the care of a gynecologic oncologist for several years.
Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 78. Her lifetime chance of dying from ovarian cancer is about 1 in 108. (These statistics don’t count low malignant potential ovarian tumors.)*
The signs of ovarian cancer can be subtle and/or like other non-cancerous illnesses. Therefore, early detection is key. A pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer. The most common signs are bloating, pelvic or abdominal (belly) pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms such as urgency (always feeling like you have to go) or frequency (having to go often). Additional signs are fatigue (extreme tiredness), upset stomach, back pain, pain during sex, constipation, changes in a woman's period, such as heavier bleeding than normal or irregular bleeding, and abdominal (belly) swelling with weight loss*.
If you think you have signs of ovarian cancer, my suggestions are:
Pay attention to your instincts, and be a relentless advocate for your health needs
Request a transvaginal ultrasound to rule out ovarian cancer
Request to be seen by a gynecologic oncologist
You can get more information about ovarian cancer at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer/about.html
Please meet Addison and her little brother Micah. Addison was diagnosed with Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in October 2018. Although she has her good days and not so good days, she is winning the fight and she is a survivor! Addi's last treatment is just a few months away, scheduled in December 2020. "Addi, "as her friends and family refer to her, remains a quite active and vibrant 9 year old. She is a student at the Pablove Foundation Shutterbug program, where kids with cancer are taught photography. As a student of the Foundation, Ms. Addison was a special guest at the 2019 Golden Globe awards in Beverly Hills, California where she walked the Red carpet and photographed and met various celebrities. Addi's latest venture, she was a cast of the production Annie, which was held near her home! town in Santa Clarita, CA. Ms. Addison loves the spotlight, is rather outspoken and welcomes well wishes!!
Today is the day... The day Addi and her family have been waiting for, for the past 2 years 2 months and 16 days which Addi fought and received treatment for her October 2018 diagnosis of Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. On this day, December 27, 2020 "so many emotions. There is immense joy and gratitude for sure! But this isn't the final sigh of relief I anticipated.
Throughout this journey we have met so many new friends. Friends with the same cancer, different cancers, and friends with other illnesses that aren't cancer. Some friends have made it to the finish line and now struggling with complications. Some friends got very close, relapse happened, and they are back at a new starting line. Some friends aren't fighting cancer, but other illnesses that don't have a finish line or a bell to ring at the end.
I just wish so badly I could scoop everyone up into my arms and bring them all with us across the finish line."
Cassandra Cross Rivera,