Women's Health

Two Brave Young Girls Overcome Ovarian Cancer

It is particularly shocking to see children diagnosed with cancer, especially those that typically occur much later in life. It seems unjust that, at such a young age, anyone would have such a colossal burden.

Two girls who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer are sources of inspiration, awareness, and strength. Read more about them below.

Paige LaRosa

At the young age of 11, Bucks County, Pennsylvania resident Paige LaRosa was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

This is quite unusual for ovarian cancer, as it is often referred to as the "silent killer" due to its inability to find until the symptoms become aggravated, usually in middle aged or older women. Ovarian cancer is especially common in those who have family history of the cancer.

Due to Paige's young age, her family was shocked and devastated when they received the diagnosis. Paige herself said, "It was crazy, I just like couldn't believe it. They told me it was rare and like whoa, like I kind of felt special and at the same time I was like blown away."

Paige's mother, Julie, had a similar reaction when she learned of her daughter's ovarian cancer diagnosis. She says, "it was just, I couldn't even believe it. I kept thinking we've gotta be dreaming."

Paige dealt with the symptoms of losing her appetite and being constantly fatigued, which are typical for ovarian cancer patients to experience, even with Paige's young age.

However, there were, unfortunately, far more intense hurdles for Paige. She had to endure surgery and chemotherapy, which caused her doctors to have to inform her that her eggs would not be saved. Therefore, Paige will never be able to have biological children. Paige's mom responded, "I told the doctors I wanted her alive; we'll worry about having babies another time. And when I told her, she just said, 'Oh, I'll adopt.' That wasn't even an issue."

No eleven-year-old should be forced to even think about having babies, but Paige's determination and bravery is an inspiration to us all. She never wavers on her positive attitude throughout her fight, and explains, "I was just like ‘alright, I got this, I can do this.’"

Now, Paige has been finished with chemotherapy for three years. She even explains that she has gained beautiful wavy hair due to the treatment, whereas her hair used to be pin straight.

In Doylestown, Brittany McGinley owns the Estate Boutique where she displays portraits of ovarian cancer survivors after being inspired by her own mother. Now, Paige's portrait proudly hangs there as well. McGinley explains the thought behind the portraits: "I really want to raise awareness about disease and symptoms. We as women get so busy, we write off mild symptoms like bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain as something else."

But McGinley's efforts do not stop there. She also donated 10 percent of her sales in September to research devoted to ovarian cancer.

Paige is now cancer-free, an honor student at her school, and enjoying the sports she plays. She has said that when she grows up, she wants to be a surgeon or chemist in order to help others who have been through cancer as well.

Natalie Cosman

Melinda Cosman is a loving wife and mother living in Manchester, Connecticut. Her husband had been deployed for a year to Iraq, but when he finally came home, she thought that worrying about her family members would finally be eased. Unfortunately, her worries were only just starting. In June of 2011, her daughter Natalie, at only seven years old, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. However, she didn't let that stop her from bringing her family together. She stated, "Your life is put on a test. It has made us stronger."

Before she was diagnosed, Natalie continuously experienced excruciating stomach pain that was so unbearable that she would often be sent home from school. Her doctors claimed that it was simply constipation or a stomach bug, but eventually her mother took her to the emergency room because clearly something bigger was wrong.

She explains, "[the doctors] were shooting for appendicitis and they brought her in for an ultrasound in the morning to confirm that."

However, they did not find a ruptured appendix, but a 7-centimeter cyst on Natalie's ovary when they performed the ultrasound. Cysts are not uncommon when women are around the age of childbearing, but they are very uncommon in young girls who have not yet been through puberty like Natalie. Dr. Judith Wolf, who is the division chief of surgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston explained, "especially girls who haven't had their period yet, nothing should grow on their ovary."

Although the National Cancer Institute reports that almost 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer annually, only 500 to 1,000 of these cases occur in women under the age of 20, which makes Natalie and Paige's cases particularly unusual.

Dr. Cynthia Herzog, a professor of pediatrics at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, explained that young girls develop a different type of disease than the ones adult women have. Women often have epithelial carcinoma, a form of ovarian cancer where the cancer starts in the cell on the surface of the ovary. However, when young girls like Natalie or Paige develop ovarian cancer, it usually starts in the egg cells before growing into a germ cell tumor.

Germ cell tumors account for approximately three percent of all cancers during childhood, as reported by the National Cancer Institute. Most germ cell tumors, approximately 90 percent, are found in ovaries or testicles and are most common in children or adolescents.

Natalie's germ cell tumor was confirmed by an autopsy and her mother states, "I kept thinking, 'ovarian cancer in a 7-year-old? She knows she had cancer and that it was ovarian cancer. To this day I don't think she gets the extent of it." The thought can indeed be baffling, especially at such a young age, as ovarian cancer can directly impact one's ability to have children, as seen in Paige's case.

While maybe it's best if Natalie doesn't understand the full extent of her ordeal at such a young age, she did understand that treatment made her miss a year of school and dance. She explains, "I felt disappointed because I like to dance. I like to perform in front of people. I also had a lot of friends at school."

Natalie opted to have surgery. Her mother explains, "there wasn't a doubt in my mind [to do the surgery] because when you're told that your daughter has cancer and that's what's going to treat it, you do it. I put her in the palm of the doctors."

During the treatment, Natalie also had her gall bladder removed. She also endured six rounds of chemotherapy, but by the end of 2012, she had completed her treatments.

Natalie herself stated that she felt a lot better, and even jokes about one side of her body being lighter than the other due to what was removed.

At such a young age, both Paige and Natalie faced their ovarian cancer diagnoses with strength and courage, and proved it was no match for them.




Photo credit: ABC News and CBS Philly