Helene Jaffe’s Story
After a year of bladder irregularities, I finally went to see a urologist on August 20th 1993. By then, I had unexplained flatus, a distended abdomen and irregular urination— all the classic symptoms of ovarian cancer—which I didn’t recognize. The urologist felt a tumor on my ovary and sent me for a trans-vaginal ultrasound. The tumor was the size of a grapefruit. My CA-125 was 7700. After a total hysterectomy, I was diagnosed with Stage III epithelial ovarian cancer.
In September, I began chemotherapy treatments that continued through July 1994. My CA-125 dropped to single digits. I spent the next year trying to make up for the year I lost. I worked to build up my weakened endurance, I reacquainted myself with tastes I had sorely missed, like hamburgers and catsup, and I started reading again, something I hadn’t been able to do with “chemo brain.”
I was healthy, but at my daughter’s request I got tested for the BRCA 1 & 2 gene mutation. I was positive for BRCA 2. In August 1998, I had a double prophylactic mastectomy and tram-flap reconstruction.
In May 2001, I had a recurrence. After another surgery, I tried every available chemo for 2 ½ years, including Megase, a tumor inhibitor that caused me to gain 80 pounds, but my numbers remained in the high 20’s. I was so miserable I threw away all my pills. I lost the weight and a year and a half later, my numbers were down to the teens.
Since the onset of disease, I have had CA-125 blood tests every 3 months. It is July 2005. I know how lucky I am to be healthy and alive. I acknowledge it every day. I don’t think I’ll ever take anything for granted again.