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Healthy You

Janice Aull's Journey With Ovarian Cancer

Monday, December 20, 2021 6:00 AM

When I first learned that I had ovarian cancer it had already metastasized across my abdomen, and I knew my life would change dramatically. My first thought was death is near, yet I had no idea of the journey I was about to take.

It started with what I thought were gastrointestinal issues. I went to the Emergency Department at NorthShore Highland Park Hospital because my pain was so intense it prevented me from sitting or standing for long periods of time. The CAT scan revealed a very different reality.

My husband and I realized the life we had known was no more. It was the beginning of a new reality and a new path we needed to embrace.

Janice Aull

Treatment Plan
It was about 11 p.m. that night when I first met Kellogg Cancer Center Gynecologic Oncologist Elena Moore. While we asked about second opinions, we knew Dr. Moore was the one. She’s been phenomenal throughout my entire journey. I really do believe Dr. Moore saved my life.

One of the things I appreciate most at NorthShore is that everyone is working together. I truly felt connected to everyone on the care team. They approached me with the attitude that we all have a role to play and an eye toward what can we do to make this successful.

Exploratory surgery was scheduled in the hopes of tumor removal. But because my cancer had aggressively spread, we went with Plan B: nine weeks of chemotherapy, then surgery, followed by nine more weeks of chemo.

Follow-Up Testing
Once diagnosed, my care plan included genetic testing. It confirmed I carry the BRCA2 genetic mutation that puts me at a higher cancer risk. That’s why I’m now on a PARP inhibitor—a targeted therapy that works on DNA repair to hopefully prevent a recurrence.

I accept that ovarian cancer has a high rate of mortality and it could come back. But Dr. Moore has told me those are just statistics and there are outliers. I will not let cancer kill my spirit.

My BRCA2 mutation also puts me at a higher risk for developing breast cancer and other cancers. Dr. Moore connected me to her colleague Dr. Allison DePersia who specializes in high-risk screening and preventive care strategies, including annual breast MRI in addition to an annual mammogram, to help stay ahead of any issues.

 

Together With Me
My team of doctors and nurses are so accommodating and encouraging. Support also came from Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple and the Integrative Medicine team. Their lessons inspired me to switch to a plant-based diet and eliminate processed foods.

My last chemo treatment was November 2019. I continue to take care of myself mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. I truly feel I’m in my best health ever. Dr. Moore told me that I was her rock star.

I’m focused on what I can control to live my best life now, especially spending time outdoors and connecting with nature. I’m a much better person today and cancer has helped me focus on my priorities. I can’t say enough about the fabulous people on the NorthShore team who’ve been with me on this journey.