Beating Ovarian Cancer Twice: Narell's Story
Surviving ovarian cancer once is a massive feat, but one woman was able to beat it twice.
Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, there is often devastation, but a desire and hope to beat it.
But if the cancer comes back, you inevitably ask yourself whether you would be capable of going through it all again - you felt the joy of having beaten it once, but do you really have the fight still in you? Narell Whitehead faced all of these questions; but she, like many other brave survivors, decided that she was going to make it through - and did just that.
A life-saving TV advertisement
Narell's journey with her ovarian cancer did not begin like many imagine it would - she did not notice a bump or lump, she was not bleeding unusually, absolutely nothing appeared to be wrong. If it weren't for an ad on television, she thinks that she might have never visited her doctor to bring up certain symptoms and experiences.
Her symptoms were very subtle and, although uncomfortable, did not seem like signs of something as serious as cancer. They included bloating, the frequent need to use a restroom, and a recurring urinary tract infection. While unpleasant, she, like many women, assumed that these were nothing more than some of the natural pains of being a woman. She also assumed that some could be due to stress.
However, she was incredibly fortunate that at age 31, she saw a television ad that was aimed at raising awareness for ovarian cancer. She explains how it impacted her, "they ticked off all of these symptoms, and it said, 'They're very mild, but by the time 75% of women realize what the symptoms are, they're too advanced.' And they went through that list and I thought, 'My god, I've got all of that ... Not knowing ovarian cancer actually can't be detected by a pap smear, I immediately went to get one and my results were clear. But the doctor luckily noticed that I had a bit of bleeding. And that's when they sent me to the core biopsy with the gynecologist and that's when it all came out. Yes, it was cancer... When my gynecologist told me over the phone, I just remember there was ringing in my ears. I couldn't hear what he was saying. He said, 'Yes, it's cancer,' and I just went blank."
The cancer had spread
While she finally knew what her symptoms were caused by, and was able to approach the cancer head on, the doctors still were not entirely aware of the extent of the situation. They knew it was cancer from what they had found, but it was not until Narell was being operated on that they observed how far the cancer had spread.
She explains, "their PET scans and their ultrasounds didn't pick up anything - they only found out what was going on when they opened me up to do the radical hysterectomy. That's when they said both ovaries had tumors in them ... They said it was on my ovaries, it had spread down to my womb, down to the cervix, it was in the lymph nodes... They said within six months I would have been dead."
Continue on for more of Narell's inspirational, triumphant story.
Photo: South Coast Register