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Abbreviations & Acronyms
dx diagnose, diagnosis
FSH follicle-stimulating hormone
IBS irritable bowel syndrome
IVP intravenous pyelogram — study to look at the kidneys and ureters
NED no evidence of disease
s/s signs & symptoms
SLS second-look surgery
TAH / BSO total abdominal hysterectomy / bilateral salpingectomy and oophorectomy — removal of, respectively: uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries
tx treat, treatment
US ultrasound
WAR whole abdominal radiation
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Submitted on 06/22/2004
Photo of Karan My wife Karan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February, 2001. Her gynecologist had been "watching" a tumor in her abdomen but was sure it was benign. When Karan saw her mother die of breast cancer that had spread to her lungs, she decided to push for removal of her own tumor. I remember sitting in the waiting room during surgery thinking this is taking way too long. When the gynecologist finally came down, she looked worried. I was shocked when she told me that Karan's tumor was malignant and a gyn/onc had been called in to finish the surgery. Dr. Barnes came down later and I was numb as he talked me through all he had done and would need to do. I did not have the heart to tell Karan when she arrived from the recovery room. Early the next morning Dr. Barnes tried to tell her and she could not believe her ears. Soon she was fighting to recover from surgery and gear up for chemo. She handled six rounds of carbo/taxol like a trooper. In the midst of this, we moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Silver Spring, Maryland. She continued her treatments under the care of a different Dr. Barnes at the Lombardi Center.

Over most of the next three years, relentless intense hot flashes were her worst enemy. We moved to Atlanta and Karan returned to the care of her original Dr. Barnes in Birmingham. At a routine quarterly check up with Dr. Barnes, Karan failed to mention some stomach/bowel discomfort that had started recently. She thought it might have just been a stomach bug. Her CA125 came back the usual seven. She did follow up later with a GI doc who, after an unremarkable CT scan gave her IBS meds that didn't seem to help. Then one evening we were watching a funny TV show and she got a sharp pain in her shoulder. We assumed that she had probably over done it with some drilling into ceramic tile in the bathroom. This pain lingered for weeks and the heating pad became Karan's new best friend until we finally went to our family doctor. An X-ray didn't reveal much and a trip to an ortho doc got us some Vioxx for the pain. Then came the next check up with our gyn/onc. Hearing the symptoms, he ventured a hopeful guess towards gallbladder. We liked that guess but after a CT scan and another CA125, we all knew the cancer was back.

Karan was at the mall with her daughter when she got the call from Dr. Barnes. We were all in shock. Hope is a wonderful thing to hang on to but when the realities of cancer come crashing down, hope is ripped away and replaced with fear and anxiety. While waiting for the next surgery we ran to Florida to get away from our lives. But the pain and fear increased so we called our nurse and we were able to move the surgery up.

We met with Dr. Barnes the day before surgery to plan strategies. Because Karan was young (52) and in reasonably good health, he wanted to be aggressive. He would start with laproscopic surgery to see if Debulking was a good option and if so install a port in her abdomen for intra-peritoneal application of chemo. We had complete faith in Dr. Barnes plans and skills. The next day, just a half hour into surgery, I got a call from the OR nurse saying the laproscopic look revealed that continuing with surgery was a solid choice. It was then a couple hours later that Dr. Barnes met with our Pastor and me. Surgery had shown things exactly the same as the pictures from the CT scan. Three new tumors, two involving the intestine/colon and adhesions on the liver. He was to able to remove all visible cancer and also removed small sections of her intestine and colon. His primary concern at this Point was recovery from the surgery, but all had gone very well.

Karan's recovery seemed to go well over the next week as we returned home to Atlanta. But the evening of our return, she had intense pain in her hip and unfortunately, the pain meds seemed to trigger vomiting and diarrhea both. We were on the phone to Dr. Barnes and after a very difficult night ended up calling 911 for a ride to a local emergency room. They used x-rays to check for a bowel obstruction and did blood tests that showed her potassium was low. They stabilized her over night with pain and nausea meds and sent us home the next morning. We made it through that night but by the following morning, Dr. Barnes was recommending that we return to Birmingham.

Karan had an "ileus" or partial small bowel obstruction. We spent several more days in the hospital and she finally ended up having an NG tube put back in to decompress her stomach. Finally some progress just in time to receive her first round of chemo. This time Dr. Barnes had decided to use cisplatin IP and Taxol IV. Lots of vomiting and diarrhea followed the first treatment and several more days in the hospital. Three weeks later we were back in Birmingham for the second treatment which wasn't much easier than the first. By now Karan's veins were shot so she had another port installed in her chest.

At this point we made a decision to seek out an Atlanta gyn/onc in hopes of finishing treatments without the drive to Birmingham. Beverly Bentley, the head of the Georgia Division of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition was a great help throughout our struggles and lead us to Dr. Burrell. After Karan's first very thorough exam she was convinced that he was her doc. He modified our protocol to cisplatin IP on day one and Taxol IP on Day 8. This was much easier for Karan to handle and the care she receives at the Northside chemo spa is tremendous.

Karan has two treatments left to receive. Dr. Burrell has done two CT scans and noticed improvements in several areas with no new signs of disease growth. Her CA125 while rising to the 150s during IP treatments has now plummeted to the 20s. By the end of July Dr. Burrell will remove her abdominal port and do laproscopic look see surgery to check our progress.

Karan is a fuzzy bald and her tiny body is scarred from surgery and tired of chemo but her spirits are good. Our love is stronger than ever and we have learned to truly appreciate each moment we have together.

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