As part of our guest blog series, the Oncofertility Consortium would like to introduce our readers to Shannon Routh, and her organization for young survivors of ovarian and gynecologic cancers, Teal Diva, founded in 2009. Below is a post she wrote about her experience with cancer, fertility and finding the "new normal" in her life.
By Shannon Routh
Remember the MASH (Mansion-Apartment-Shack-House) game you used to play when you were a little girl, to predict what your life would be like when you grew up? The game where you choose your husband, how many kids you will have, where you will live, etc. It’s funny how the words cancer, infertility or hysterectomy were never a part of my outcome. My story ends a little differently than I had hoped…dreamed.
My husband and I were married just shy of 3 years when we got the news…you have ovarian cancer. A few months prior to being diagnosed, I had abdominal pain. I went to my gynecologist. After reviewing my ultrasound, she noticed a cyst the size of a grapefruit on my ovary. She referred me to a Gynecologic Oncologist. As he prepped us for surgery, he told us we had 3 scenarios: 1-remove the cyst, 2- cancer, removal of cyst and ovary, and 3-cancer, hysterectomy, etc, etc, etc. After surgery, I woke up asking if he did a hysterectomy and I was told he did not. Oh my goodness…I was so relieved, so thankful. The day I was released from the hospital is the day I learned I had stage IIa Clear Cell Carcanoma. I was 32. And because of my age and cancer type, he wanted to be certain prior to taking both ovaries. Wait…does that mean?...yep. A 2nd surgery was scheduled. We went home…devastated. In an effort to remain positive, I thought we could harvest eggs and pursue other options. We went in for a consultation a few days before the radical hysterectomy and asked hopeful questions about our options, but we were told my cancer type feeds off of hormones. Unfortunately, you will not be able to bare children. So not only do I have cancer, I can’t have kids. WOW...talk about depressing. But I didn’t have time to feel sorry for myself because I had to prepare for the hardest fight of my life.
My world was turned upside down by having cancer and learning I would never bare children, but I have found a new normal…one I didn’t plan for. Throughout my journey, I needed desperately to connect with someone. So, one night I started writing and before I knew it, Teal Diva was born. The mission of Teal Diva is to celebrate life! As survivors of ovarian and other gynecological cancers, we understand the reason to celebrate every sunrise. We are bound by our experiences and challenges and form a sorority which we never intended to join. The primary beneficiary of our fundraising efforts are research programs seeking reliable screening tests for gynecologic cancers.