A California woman is revealing what it took for doctors to determine she has ovarian cancer.
In a conversation with Today.com, Emma Schlamm said her symptoms began when she was 25 years old. At the time, she felt an unusual pain in her left side. After a scan revealed that Schlamm, now 29, had a mass that doctors said was a “borderline tumor,” it was removed along with her ovary.
“I pushed and pushed and pushed because I was getting worried. I (didn’t) love the idea of anything that was growing in my body that wasn’t supposed to be there,” she said.
Schlamm told the outlet that she visited several doctors before the scan that found the mass was performed and felt “incredibly dismissed” when expressing concerns about potential fertility loss.
A year later, she was “shocked” to learn that a routine scan found another tumor that was positive for ovarian cancer. Schlamm described it as “a full-fledged low-grade serous ovarian cancer” and that the diagnosis was overwhelming.
“I blacked out for most of the conversation,” recalled Schlamm. “I don’t remember a lot of it. I’ve never heard my mom wail like that, the guttural kind of primal cry she let out.”
According to the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer, a “low-grade serous carcinoma of the ovary or peritoneum is a less frequent epithelial ovarian cancer type that is poorly sensitive to chemotherapy and affects younger women, many of whom endure years of ineffective treatments and poor quality of life.”
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include bloating, pelvic and abdominal pain, and urinary urgency, according to the American Cancer Society.
Schlamm froze her eggs and underwent 18 rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove her remaining ovary. Although she is now on an aromatase inhibitor, she told Today.com that she is also dealing with a lot of “grief” from feeling like she has lost her “youth and vibrance and vitality.” One of the medication’s symptoms is osteoporosis, leading Schlamm to worry about hurting herself.
While she says there is no longer evidence of the disease in her body, Schlamm, who serves as a board member of the STAAR Ovarian Cancer Foundation, said one of the hardest things she deals with is fear every time she gets a scan.
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“That’s the hardest part of all this, living with the fear of recurrence because the numbers are just so defeating,” she said. “I try to do what I can, stay active and healthy. It makes me feel like I have some control over my body.”