Amy received both rapid and compassionate care for her ovarian cancer at University of Colorado Gynecologic Oncology
Dickson’s fitness routine probably puts yours to shame. The Boulder resident was boxing with a trainer, doing high-intensity interval training, weight lifting, mountain biking and running on a regular basis in the Colorado sunshine in the summer of 2014.
But midway through the season, she noticed a mass around her hips. She thought it might be a sports hernia since she had had tendonitis (there is an increased risk of sports hernias in people who experience tendonitis).
Although the mass didn’t hurt, it kept growing and becoming puffier, so she visited her primary care doctor who sent her to a gynecologist for an ultrasound.
Her gynecologist reviewed the ultrasound, took a CA 125 test – an indicator of ovarian cancer – which came back extremely elevated. She said Amy would need to see a gynecologic oncologist as soon as possible.
Amy was referred to Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Colorado. Amy says the staff at the Cancer Center actually called her with an appointment the next day (a Friday at 4 pm no less!). Dr. Guntupalli sent her for a CT scan the same afternoon to get some more answers.
“It was amazing that everything was so coordinated and I was able to receive excellent care so very quickly,” said Amy. “It was all very reassuring and made me feel as though nothing was going to get missed.”
Worse than expected
The CT scan revealed that cancer had metastasized to her lymph nodes, abdominal cavity and spots on other organs. She underwent a needle biopsy that determined the cancer was indeed ovarian.
The diagnosis was a shock for her. “I had been feeling great! Cancer was the last thing on my mind,” said Amy. “Everything happened so fast.”
The cancer was so advanced that it would require three preliminary chemotherapy sessions, followed by a laparotomy surgery, bilateral oophorectomy as well as soft tissue and lymph node removal. A laparotomy is a surgical method that requires a large incision across the midsection that allows a surgeon to access inside the abdominal cavity. A bilateral oophorectomy consists of surgically removing the ovaries.
Once she recovered enough from the surgery, she would need three additional rounds of chemotherapy to kill residual cancer cells. Amy said that despite the news, she was fortunate in many ways. As a small business owner with her husband, she was able to move her work around and take as much time as she needed to complete and recover from her treatment.
With the intense plan laid out for her, Amy felt overwhelmed and that her life was being taken over by her cancer. She was comforted at many times throughout her treatment by Dr. Guntupalli. He would reassure her telling her, “We will get you through this. Don’t let cancer take over your life – it is just one piece of it and you are still everything you were before. Go enjoy your life.”
“That was very excellent advice,” said Amy.
The surgery was the most challenging part of her treatment and definitely not as “easy” as the chemotherapy treatments leading up to the surgery. Amy spent five days recovering at CU following her surgeries.
“I had a hard time in the hospital,” said Amy. “But the nurses throughout the entire process were all complete saints.”
The final chemotherapy treatments went well and by the end, Amy described the chemo as “unpleasant, but completely tolerable.”
The treatment plan worked. Amy’s cancer was removed and she was declared disease free. Amy sees Dr. Guntupalli every three months for an exam and a CA 125 blood test, which so far has been normal. Amy is enjoying her eighth month of remission and feeling fantastic.
Amy’s advice for other women who may experience ovarian cancer is to act fast and get treatment with doctors you trust.
Don’t waste a moment if you’re facing ovarian cancer. With doctors like Dr. Guntupalli, there is always hope. Amy D.