Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Outstanding physician credited with long term survival

Name: Helen Palmquist
Age: 63
Hometown: Lincolnshire, IL
Type of cancer: Epithelial Ovarian Stage IIIc grade 2
Date of diagnosis: 1987
Stage at diagnosis: IIIc
Current date: June, 2009
Current status: Disease free since 1994

1. How was your health when you were diagnosed?

2. Where were you initially diagnosed?
I was diagnosed by my gynecologist in Chicago.

3. What treatment was initially recommended?
My gynecologic oncologist, Dr. John Lurain, Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago performed my two surgeries, and he prescribed my two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy. In 1987 for my initial treatment I received three IV drugs overnight in the hospital once every three weeks for eight treatments. This was over a six-month period. The drugs were cisplatin, cytoxan and adriamycin. I then had a second-look surgery. Some of the biopsies were positive. I still had microscopic disease. Due to this, I then received high doses of intraperitoneal (directly into the abdominal cavity) cisplatin – again staying overnight in the hospital for each of five treatments over the next six months. Subsequently, I went on an oral chemotherapy, hexalen, for six months to try to prevent a recurrence. This ended in December 1988. In 1993, I had a recurrence. I was treated with 12 treatments of IV carboplatin over the next 12 months as an outpatient. I completed this treatment in March 1994, and I have been disease free since then.

4. Did you get a 2nd or 3rd opinion? If so, where?

5. Are you still in treatment?
No, disease free since completing treatment March 1994

6. Do you take any nutritional supplements? If so, what do you take?
Multi-vitamin and calcium + vitamin D

7. Are you currently considered to be disease free?

8. How long have you been disease free?
Over 15 years.

9. What are you doing to stay disease free?
I have checkup exams by my gynecologic oncologist every six months.

10. What do you think is the most important thing you did to combat your cancer?
I went to a gynecologic oncologist who was a perfectionist in the operating room. He also prescribed aggressive treatment with chemotherapy drugs.

11. Are you willing to have a newly diagnosed patient contact you?
My mission is to give encouragement and hope to other women who are going through what I have experienced. I am more than happy to be contacted by other women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

12. Brief Additional Narrative
I cannot stress enough that if you suspect you have ovarian cancer, you need to be examined by a gynecologic oncologist. He or she is specially trained to remove the disease that has often spread beyond the ovaries.

Additionally, while I was in treatment I kept busy and tried to lead a "normal" life – not dwelling on the disease. Our family took trips together, making sure the trips did not interfere with my chemotherapy schedule. I treated myself to presents and counted down with each treatment, having celebration lunches with a cousin and friend. I tried not to cross bridges until I got to them and I tried to take it one day at a time.  Remember, we are not statistics, we are individuals. If I could do it, you can too!




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