Ovarian cancer survivor urges women to know their bodies.
Laura Jones was lying on her couch when her 13-year-old cat, Nikki, pounced on her abdomen. Startled at her cat’s uncharacteristic behavior, she reached down to touch her abdomen. That was when she felt the knot.
“You don’t want to think the worst. I was hoping it was hernia or something like that,” Laura said.
Laura went to her physician who ordered a CT scan. Two, large malignant cysts were found on her ovaries. In August 2013 at age 55, she was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer, meaning it had spread to the lymph nodes.
Jones’ first thought was of her four daughters, who had lost their father just six months prior.
“I have always tried to live for the Lord,” Laura said. “My thought was Lord; please don’t these children lose both parents this year.”
Laura lost her husband Larry to esophageal cancer. He passed away just seven weeks from his initial diagnosis in January 2013.
“We were married for 37 years and he was the love of my life,” she said. “I can say losing my husband was harder than going through chemo. I lost a part of myself.”
Within a week of her diagnosis, Laura had surgery. Then she underwent six cycles of chemotherapy while still working her job at Adidas to keep her health insurance and pay her husband’s medical bills.
“I had to take it one day at a time. Putting my faith in the Lord was how I got through it; I kept praying that my children wouldn’t lose their mother,” she said. “I had great doctors who took care of me and my co-workers at Adidas were very supportive. My church family was very supportive, helping with grandchildren and meals.”
Laura was declared cancer free in January 2014, but still has check-ups every three months with her physicians at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute since her cancer was so advanced.
“God answered every prayer. My youngest daughter was just starting college when I was diagnosed, and I was afraid it would bring her down at school,” Laura said. “This fall she is starting her senior year at college. We have come a long way.”
Laura is now a cancer survivor of more than a year and urges others to know their bodies and not ignore symptoms. All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but it is more frequent in woman over 40 years old. Of the women 20,000 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, approximately 14,500 die from the disease.
“We should listen to our bodies more,” Laura said. “Some of the signs I had I thought were more due to getting older.”
Laura had been experiencing lower back pains and frequent gas and bloating, which are symptoms of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer symptoms include vaginal bleeding or discharge, pain in the pelvic or abdominal area, back pain, bloating, feeling full quickly while eating or a change in bathroom habits.
“We blame everything on age. Since I was 55, I thought I was having gas from eating different things, since your stomach doesn’t tolerate things as well when you get older,” she said. “My ovarian cancer went down, and ovarian cancer can affect your bowels.”
She said if Nikki hadn’t jumped on her, she would be dead today.
“She had never done that before. It caught me off guard, but I wasn’t in pain. Thank God she did that,” Laura said. “I would have never found the knot if she hadn’t.”
Don’t ignore these symptoms and talk to your doctor if you experience any of these signs:
- Vaginal bleeding or discharge from your vagina that is not normal for you
- Pain in the pelvic or abdominal area
- Back pain
- Bloating, which is when the area below your stomach swells or feels full
- Feeling full quickly while eating
- A change in your bathroom habits, such as having to pass urine very badly or very often, constipation or diarrhea