Women's Health

22 Year Old Battles Non-Traditional Ovarian Cancer for Second Time

At only 22 years old, Megan Santa Croce is fighting against a non-traditional form of ovarian cancer for the second time in her life.

Everyone who has had their own battle with cancer is a hero, and those who have had to deal with it more than once are some of the strongest warriors. At only 22 years old, Megan Santa Croce is fighting against a non-traditional form of ovarian cancer for the second time in her life.

Megan's story

In their 20’s, many people are just getting out of college and have their entire lives ahead of them. This is the time to try new things, explore newfound adulthood, and more. However, for Megan Santa Croce, this is a time of hardship, and fighting against non-traditional ovarian cancer; not for the first time, but the second. She even jokes about her current status in life: "A woman of 22, no ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus, and fighting against cancer for the second time. Oh, the joys of youth!"

Megan decided that she wanted to honor Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month by sharing her story, which she titled "My 'Not Quite' Ovarian Cancer Story: Chemo is Like Ice Cream."

Megan was first diagnosed at the age of 15, when a sertoli-leydig tumor was found in her abdomen that was attached to one of her ovaries. As a result, it had to be removed. However, the removal left her with only one ovary and her uterus. These were left because without them, she would be unable to produce her own hormones or ever have the possibility of having children.

This was not the traditional course of ovarian cancer. For one, ovarian cancer is usually found in those in their 60s, in an advanced stage. Megan was only 15. A bigger difference was that traditional ovarian cancer develops inside of the ovary, while Megan's tumor attached outside of the ovary. While her cancer is not traditional, she wants people to recognize that there are lots of different forms in which cancer can affect the ovaries - not just ovarian cancer as many think of it.

So, her tumor was attached to her ovary, but she was not labeled as someone who had ovarian cancer. Instead, the tumor grew out of her ovary towards her abdomen. There were branches that trapped her appendix, large intestine, and touched her other ovary, uterus, and some lymph nodes.

While her initial removal let her keep her ovary and uterus, when she faced a recurrence, the remaining ovary was also taken out. The cancer was much different when it came back compared to as it had been the first time. Instead of one tumors that spread to different areas like a tree, there were over ten individual sites, unconnected from one another. There were tumors in her uterus, ovary, bladder, bones, and lymph nodes. However, it still was not considered ovarian cancer.

At only 22, she now suffers from menopause. This is common in those with ovarian cancer; however, they are often closer to the age where this would occur naturally.

Megan explains what it's like to have many symptoms of ovarian cancer, but not technically be included in the group. "It's like you almost fit in something, but not quite. What it boils down to, in my mind, is that I did face what many ovarian cancer patients deal with, just didn't have the official label."


During both of her bouts of cancer, at age 15 and 22, she had chemotherapy treatments. She received chemotherapy five days a week with only two days in between, and the treatments would last from 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening.

She wants people who have never undergone chemotherapy to know a little more about it, and what it is truly like. She says, "the word 'chemo' is like the word 'ice cream.' In the same way that ice cream has different flavors, chemo does too. At 15, I was on Cisplatin and Etoposide. Now currently facing treatment, I am on Taxol and Carboplatin. Each of these chemos have different side effects. For example, Cisplatin hits your kidneys harder than others, making you more nauseous, whereas Taxol can cause numbing and tingling to the fingers, which can lead to nerve damage. I have been fortunate enough to not have too many side effects, but I am well versed in nausea, fatigue, [and] the tingling of fingers."

She also wants people to understand that the symptoms occur for different people at different times. Some feel completely nauseated after feeling fine for a week. Some never feel intense symptoms. Many feel sick constantly. For Megan, an experience of nausea would be almost unbearable for the few days following chemotherapy, and eating would be impossible without vomiting. She had to learn how to eat, that bland foods were her safest bet, and that you should never eat things you really enjoy while undergoing treatment - because you probably won't like it as much after it makes you sick.

She also references that intense fatigue often follows chemotherapy, and it is important to be sufficiently prepared. She explains how her days would look: "My normal day before chemo started with jazz band practice at 6:30am and ended with theatre till 11:00pm, with school and sports also added in that time frame. On chemo, I was lucky to read one history chapter in a week. It was hard to accept that I couldn't do everything. In fact, the first time I cried was when my doctors told me I would not be able to go to school or participate in after school activities."

She says that it was very difficult to watch her previously exciting life become boring, and she felt ashamed that she couldn't stay up without napping, or take a simple jog. However, she started to learn exactly how chemotherapy affected her, and how she would be able to use her "good days" to the fullest. She would rake leaves, go for small hikes, or take a tiny day trip with her family when she could.

She explains what treatment is like to someone who is worried and getting it for the first time, "regardless of what kind of chemo you get, you have to get it. So, what is a day of treatment like? Well, honestly it's very low key. To start, you always get blood work to make sure you are healthy enough to start chemo. Once that is taken, the process all depends on your treatment."

She explains how she managed to make some of her treatments a little bit more fun around Christmas time, "we even got lights and decorated our individual treatment cubicles with lights. I even had a little fake tree. Treatment was made fun, and I knew that going into my second, it had to be the same way."

While she feels a little more prepared and calmer simply because she has been through it before, she still likes to bring distractions to her treatments like coloring books, her phone, a board game, etc. Her friends and family come to visit her, and she likes to play games with them. She sometimes naps, or watches her favorite game show to get through it. While no one should have to go through what Megan has been through at all, or especially twice, she is facing it by staying positive and making it through.