As a 15-year-old, I was definitely aware of my body, but more in terms of how it compared to my peers than what it might mean for my own health. When my pants started fitting differently and my abdomen grew, my first thought was that I was getting fat—even though the rest of me stayed skinny and I was active in basketball. I was mortified and tried to hide the change by wearing looser clothes for a few weeks, until one day I pushed on my “pot belly” and realized that it was solid. When I showed my mom, she looked scared, and immediately made an appointment with my doctor.
My doctor performed a pelvic exam and found a mass, but our small-town hospital lacked the resources to diagnose it any further. Over the next few days, I went to two different hospitals to perform multiple tests, which confirmed a large mass on my ovary, followed by surgery to biopsy the mass. It turned out to be dysgerminoma—a rare form of ovarian cancer. After multiple rounds of chemo and three more surgeries, I am happy to say that I have been cancer-free since 1990.
Even though I noticed my abdomen changing, I was almost too embarrassed to say anything about it because I didn’t want to be different from my peers. I am lucky that I showed the growth to my mom after two weeks, and that the doctors took my concerns seriously. Ovarian cancer is very hard to detect, so you have to listen to your body and share all health changes with a medical professional.
- extreme bloating
- solid “pot belly”