Voices of FORCE

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Wendy Shepherd, Edmond, OK

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  Voices of Force

Age: 33

*Mom diagnosed with stage 4 ovca on 11/9/10 *She tested positive for BRCA after diagnosis. *Mom died 11/28...19 days later *Just found I have BRCA

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My journey

Judy’s Story
By daughters, Stacey Holden and Wendy Shepherd

Cancer…it’s not what we ever expected on November 9th, 2010. That’s the day our mother, Judy Werber, went to have a “routine” gallbladder surgery. Instead, the surgeon discovered that she had tumor cells throughout her abdomen, which appeared to originate from her ovary. When mom woke up from surgery, we had to tell her the devastating news. This was a moment in time that we will never forget and the next 19 days would prove to be a whirlwind of emotions for us, our family and friends and especially for our mom.
Before now, our mom loved life! She truly stopped to smell the roses. She enjoyed her daily walks with Annie, her dog. But to her, Annie was another child. Mom’s smile was beautiful and contagious. She was a child care provider, but it was hardly just a job to her. She spent her life pouring into the lives of the children she kept as well as their parents. She loved to shop, garden and go out to eat. Above all, our mom loved her family. She loved her grandchildren so much…all 6 of them!

The day after her surgery, she had a CT scan to pinpoint exactly where the cancer was. We found out that the cancer had spread like a wild fire to many vital organs, including the liver. Thus, mom had stage 4 ovarian cancer. She only lived long enough for one appointment to her oncologist where she was tested for the BRCA genetic mutation that we later found out she was positive for. A BRCA genetic mutation increases the chance of breast and ovarian cancer. It’s likely our maternal grandmother, had the mutation as well. She died from pre-menopausal breast cancer at the age of 38.

We couldn’t understand why our mom wasn’t diagnosed earlier. She wasn’t feeling herself back in May, just six months prior. She then began to reach out to her doctors. Her symptoms were indigestion, back pain and bloating. The doctors were not thinking about the possibility of cancer. She received many misdiagnosed ailments such as a urinary tract infection and congestive heart failure. All of which, was four months after her initial symptoms developed. Those four months proved to be crucial time lost, as her cancer was extremely aggressive. When this was presented to the oncologist, his response was “When one hears hoof beats, what is your first thought? 99% of people will think of horses.”
On November 28th 2010, we lost our dear mom. That day, our mom became an unwanted statistic. Our message to you today is simple. Please be in tune with your body and educate yourself. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest cancer among women because it is so hard to detect. There are currently no screening tests for ovarian cancer like there are with cervical (pap smear) and breast (mammogram) cancer. Although all the doctors who cared for our mother are excellent, compassionate and professional caregivers not one of them pieced together all the symptoms our mother was experiencing. It is up to you, the patient, to understand your body, your family history and be an advocate for yourself. Our mom took care of herself and never missed an annual pap smear or mammogram!

We just recently found out that we are BRCA positive. Our mom has not only given us life… she has saved our lives as well. Unfortunately, we didn’t discover our mom’s cancer until it was too late, but our hope is to prevent the same fate for ourselves, our children and many other women.

Ovarian cancer whispers, so listen.

The hardest part of my journey

The hardest part of my new journey has been losing my mom. Also, realizing that she has given me such a beautiful gift that cost her own life. The gift of knowing something she did not know.

If I could do it over again

I am just beginning this journey but so far, everything has folded with a purpose.

FORCE:Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered