When 60-year-old Sally Grear, of Monfort Heights, started experiencing incontinence issues at the start of her fall volleyball season in September 2010, she chalked it up to an annoyance that came with age, but figured she could get it straightened out with surgery.
Then, when she noticed abnormal vaginal bleeding, she started to get anxious. Sally visited her primary care doctor, Amy Neal MD, of Western Family Physicians, who performed a pelvic exam and, from there, instructed Sally get an MRI scan. A few days later, Dr. Neal followed up with Sally over the phone to discuss the MRI results, and uttered the one phrase Sally never expected to hear: “It might be cancer.”
Sally Was "Flabbergasted"
While the diagnosis wasn’t confirmed at this point, Dr. Neal recommended that Sally schedule a visit with Jack Basil MD, a gynecologic oncologist at the TriHealth Cancer Institute.
“I was flabbergasted,” Sally recalls. “Dr. Basil told me I had a cyst the size of a grapefruit [in her ovary].” He also explained that the cyst was pressing on Sally’s bladder and likely causing the incontinence problems. Dr. Basil had Sally schedule a hysterectomy to determine the diagnosis, so she went in for surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in early January 2011 – still expecting everything to come out normal.
Sally’s worst fear was confirmed: The mass was cancerous.
“But, it was in stage I [ovarian cancer], and they thought they got it all,” she explains. “From there, we went to treatment.”
Sally started three-and-a-half months of chemotherapy on Valentine’s Day. Throughout chemo, Sally was especially grateful for her husband, Terry, who attended every treatment session.
He did other special things, too. Sally lost her hair and experienced extreme fatigue during treatment, but one side effect was particularly miserable. “Food just did not taste right,” she remembers. “Everything tasted like it was rotten … except for scrambled eggs – or any kind of eggs – and tapioca pudding. So my husband was always making eggs for me,” Sally laughs.
Sally also had another teammate by her side throughout treatment: Barb, a nurse at Outpatient Cancer Care – Good Samaritan Hospital. “She was just the sweetest person. She made going there easier and really takes an interest in you. Barb remembers you, so you don’t just feel like a number coming in there.”
Taking Time to Cherish the Small Stuff
Now, Sally’s life has returned to normalcy. Her follow-up doctor visits have gone well, and she had her port removed just a few weeks ago. (A port is a catheter tube that goes into a vein in the chest, ending at the heart, used to carry nutrients and medicine into the body.) “Somehow, that puts an end to it,” Sally says. She’s also back to her active lifestyle, which includes volleyball and babysitting her two grandchildren once a week.
But, there’s one thing that has changed: her perspective. “You take things more seriously about relationships and you don’t take things for granted, like you maybe did before,” Sally explains. “You don’t think, ‘well, you can put that off,’ because maybe you can’t.”