Dec. 02--When Sherrie Nimigean found out almost two years ago, that she had
ovarian cancer, she knew nothing about the disease.
No one in her family had been diagnosed with it, and going by the numbers, Mrs.
Nimigean thought she wasn't at great risk.
She'd had her first pregnancy before age 30, had no family history of the
disease, she wasn't obese, hadn't started menopause, and was still a few years
shy of the age range of women who are most at risk -- all factors that may
decrease the risks of developing ovarian cancer.
Known as a silent killer, ovarian cancer frequently comes without pain and often
goes undetected until it has reached a critical stage. There is no test for the
disease and symptoms are often subtle and easily confused with other disorders.
Some symptoms may include bloating, growth in the abdomen, changes in urinary
patterns, weight loss and fatigue.
"From time to time everybody experiences those things. That's why [ovarian
cancer] is so hard to diagnose," said Dr. Anthony Armstrong, an obstetrician and
gynecologist, and former chief of staff at Mercy St. Vincent.
By the time they get a diagnosis, "three-quarters of women are late stage,
because the symptoms are so varied," Dr. Armstrong said. "A lot of time, the
primary care [physician] and even a gynecologist, start to pursue things like
irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, bacterial infection -- something GI related."
Mrs. Nimigean suffered from many of the symptoms, but she wasn't overly
concerned because her doctors thought they were signs of early menopause, she
said. Then came a urinary tract infection, followed by a second one. Now she was
"I'd never had one and then all of a sudden I had two within a couple months of
each other," Mrs. Nimigean said. "I told my doctor we needed to look further."
Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female
reproductive system, and accounts for about 3 percent of all cancers in women,
the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports. This year, there will be
an estimated 22,240 new cases and more than 14,000 ovarian cancer-related
deaths, according to the National Cancer Institute.
All women are at risk, but older women are more likely to get the disease than
younger women. About 90 percent of women who get ovarian cancer are older than
40, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older,
the CDC reports.
For the average person, there is not a good screening test, but with a family
history or suspicion that something else is going on, things can be done,
including genetic testing, ultra sounds and CAT scans Dr. Armstrong said.
"Self awareness is key for early detection," Dr. Armstrong said. "You know what
is normal for yourself. Go to your primary care [doctor] or gynecologists and
tell them if something is not right."
For 10 years, Mrs. Nimigean operated her own cleaning company, specializing in
housekeeping, making sure that the homes she cleaned had counter tops that shone
and floors that sparkled. Now at age 50, Mrs. Nimigean can barely stand long
enough to do her own dishes.
"You look at life so much differently," said Mrs. Nimgean, who has four children
and four grandchildren. "You appreciate the small things, the sunshine, the
flowers, trees and wind."
When's she not resting, she makes a point to spend as much time with her family
as possible. Family vacations are mandatory and on Sundays everyone gathers for
dinner at the house, where teal ribbons are tied around trees and lamp post in
the yard. They symbolize ovarian cancer awareness and support.
Mrs. Nimigean's cancer is stage T3c, meaning the disease has spread to the
abdominal lining outside the pelvis and the cancer metastases are larger than
two centimeters. She recently got news that the cancer has spread to her liver.
Her husband Gregory planned to retired three years ago, but the economy declined
and then Mrs. Nimigean got sick. He's worked at Jeep for 36 years. With medical
bills piling up, "he can't afford to retire."
After a-year-and-a-half of chemotherapy, Mrs. Nimigean joined a clinical trial
at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. She'll find out this month if the
pills, which are suppose to shrink her cancer cells, are working.
"I'm in the fight for my life. Anybody given this type of diagnosis would do
anything to make sure they're here a little longer," Mrs. Nimigean said. "I'm
hoping that if I don't make it through this, it'll save my kids or someone
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.
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