You’re Too Young To Have Cancer

You’re Too Young To Have Cancer

By: Marcia Donziger of Denver Colorado, Sharsheret Peer Supporter

I was 27 and thought I had a bladder infection. It turned out to be a tumor on my right ovary. At first, my gynecologist was not concerned. “Could it be cancer?” I worried. “No,” she replied, “You’re too young to have cancer.” I was married and trying to get pregnant at the time, so I scheduled surgery immediately to get it over with. The doctor assured me the worst that could happen is I’d lose one ovary and I would still be able to have children. She was confident the tumor was benign.

On the day of my surgery, I was wheeled into the pre-op room. That’s when the medical assistant approached me with a legal form to sign, agreeing to the potential of having a hysterectomy. My doctor and I never discussed this. Five hours later, the surgery was over, and I was in the recovery room. I was in a lot of pain. That’s when my doctor broke the news. “I’m sorry, but you have ovarian cancer. We had to do a complete hysterectomy.” Through the pain I heard, “You have cancer. You can’t have children.” The irony was that my doctor was six months pregnant. Her belly at my eye level made me feel even more devastated.

Stage IIIc ovarian cancer spread throughout my abdomen. I faced infertility, followed by a bowel obstruction, and six months of chemotherapy. One of the things I struggled with most was keeping friends and family up-to-date with what was going on. I felt the daily burden of not communicating effectively with those I loved who were so concerned. In 2007, I founded a non-profit organization to help all cancer patients and caregivers easily communicate with friends and family during the treatment process. Cancer Foundation believes a strong support community is critical for cancer patients. We provide free, personal websites to cancer patients and caregivers so they can easily connect with family and friends, because no patient should ever feel alone.

The other major difficulty I dealt with was not knowing anyone else my age with ovarian cancer. The average age of diagnosis at that time was 61 and I was 27. The worst side effect was infertility and I couldn’t find anyone else who could relate to me. For this reason, I am so proud of Sharsheret for developing a peer support program for young, Jewish women living with ovarian cancer. I am excited to be a peer supporter and share the important message with other young women facing ovarian cancer that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and there are fertility options.

Today, my husband and I are the parents of twin boys, age 5 ½, who were born with the help of an anonymous egg donor and surrogate mom. Becoming a mom was the final piece to my healing, and I look forward to helping other young ovarian cancer patients through Sharsheret.