Defeating the odds of ovarian cancer

Survivor sharing her story on how she learned she had cancer, and what she did about ti

Diane Johansen

Diane Johansen was in the best shape of her life when she found out she had ovarian cancer.That was in 2011. She had retired, had two successful knee replacements, was hitting the gym regularly and had lost 50 pounds over two years. She was planning her new future, and having already lost her husband to leukemia had decided to embrace life and “never say no” to an adventure.

But she wasn’t listening very carefully when her body said ‘no.’ At least, she didn’t at first.

“I wasn’t feeling well all the time,” Johansen says, and despite losing weight, her middle remained quite large. But she journeyed on, took Gravol while out on holidays, so she could get through dinners with friends.

Back at the gym, she was asked to help demonstrate an exercise to visiting physicians. She laid on her stomach for a stretching demonstration.

“I remember thinking ‘I feel like I’m lying on a ball’,” she says. The next time she did that same stretch, she said it felt “squishy.”

When Johansen went to her doctor, she eventually learned she had developed a 16.5 cm tumour on her ovary. And, that tumour had leaked into her abdomen.

“How did I not know?” she asks. “The tumour was so large I had burst it in the gym that day.”

She beat the often devastating odds of ovarian cancer, and is now a speaker for Ovarian Cancer Canada. She recently traveled to Chilliwack to speak about ovarian cancer with the Fraser Rotary Club.

Ovarian cancer is something we all have to be aware of, because of its quiet, insidious nature.

“I thought I was as healthy as I could be, but I was never sicker,” she says. Women often brush off the symptoms that are consistent with ovarian cancer, but she says, everyone has to be their own health advocates.

“We all have to be aware of ovarian cancer,” she says. “It affects everybody. And I can’t stress enough for people to reach out for support.”

Joining Johansen in Chilliwack was Tracy Kolwich, director of the Western Region for Ovarian Cancer Canada.

She underlined the importance of knowing the symptoms, and highlighted some of the advances  being made in ovarian cancer research.

Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect, and Kolwich noted that many doctors will never have a diagnosed patient in their entire careers. Common symptoms are bloating, difficulty eating, abdominal discomfort and a change in urinary habits. Women experiencing new symptoms that persist for three or more weeks should visit their doctor.

There are factors that increase or reduce the risk of ovarian cancers, but new research is finding that ovarian cancer is not as clearcut as it once seemed. Instead, researchers are learning that it is a spectrum of cancers. The newest research suggests that ovarian cancer, or at least some cancers, actually begin in the fallopian tubes.

That research is happening right in B.C., and has led this province’s gynecological oncologists to begin removing fallopian tubes instead of the more common tubal ligation procedures.

While tubal ligation is a way to decrease your risk of ovarian cancer, the medical community now hopes the removal surgery will provide an even greater reduction — possibly by

In Canada today, about 17,000 women are living with ovarian cancer, with 2,600 new diagnoses each year. It is the most fatal women’s cancer in Canada, claiming 1,740 lives each year. Seventy per cent of women diagnosed die within five years.

Johansen said her experience with cancer has led to her want to share her knowledge and story with everyone, to help reduce those numbers and increase chances of survival in the future.

She laughs, and adds, she doesn’t know how to die.

“I’ve gone through the process and I’m a winner,” she said.

 

Walk of Hope

Ovarian Cancer Canada is the only organization in the country dedicated specifically to ovarian cancer awareness. They began an annual fundraising walk in 2002, and have raised more than $19 million since then. The funds are used for supporting women and their families living with the disease, awareness and education, and in helping fund research, including new breakthroughs.

The Chilliwack Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope takes place September 13 along the Vedder River Rotary Trail.

The event includes a 2.5K walk and a 5K Fun Run.

Chairing the event are Deb Edwards and Sarah Mouritzen. To register for the event, volunteer or donate visit ovariancancerwalkofhope.ca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack Sports Hall of Fame reveals Class of 2019

Longtime Chilliwack Curling Club manager Bruce Renwick is being inducted as a builder.

Table games like Blackjack coming this fall for Chances Chilliwack

Council approved the move to add live-dealer table games with a vote of 3-2

Body found believed to be missing Chilliwack senior with dementia

Police says case is now in the hands of the coroner

Kent quarry opposition receives federal support

Green Party leader Elizabeth May wrote to the provincial government to oppose the quarry application

Mammoth sturgeon catch was ‘a fish of a lifetime’ for Chilliwack guide

Sturgeon was so enormous it tied for largest specimen ever tagged and released in the Fraser

Trudeau vows to stand firm against ‘increasingly assertive’ China

China has accused Canada of meddling in its affairs

Two Vancouver police officers bitten, scratched after ‘violent’ arrest

Police will recommend charges against a 50-year-old man

B.C. father tells judge he did not kill his young daughters

Andrew Berry pleaded not guilty to the December 2017 deaths

Police watchdog investigating two officers after Langley teen’s suspected overdose

According to IIO, two officers were deployed to help Carson Crimeni but did not locate him before he died

UPDATED: Kelly Ellard gets day parole extended for six more months, overnight leave

Kelly Ellard was convicted of killing 14-year-old Reena Virk in 1997

New study suggests autism overdiagnosed: Canadian expert

Laurent Mottron: ‘Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people’

Impaired driving charge laid in 2018 crash in Delta that killed teen

Olivia Malcolm and her 20-year-old friend were standing behind their vehicle when they were hit by a car

B.C. hockey player excited to join Humboldt Broncos

Defenceman Sebastien Archambault played last two seasons with Junior B Sicamous Eagles.

Most Read