Carolyn's life was fulfilling and “pretty good” as she described it. She had a successful career as a commercial advertising photographer, was married and living in vibrant New York City and had a dog named Henry that she and her husband adored.
Some say when life is that good, they are waiting for the other foot to drop. Carolyn had a strong family history of breast and gynecological cancers, so when she was told that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she was not that surprised. What she did find surprising was that her diagnosis was caught very early on, which is not usually the case for many diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The reason why ovarian cancer is hard to detect in its early stages is due to its vague symptoms.
The laboratory had everything to do with Carolyn’s detection and treatment of her cancer. Blood tests were performed to test her blood for tumor markers that indicate ovarian cancer. Specifically, a cancer antigen CA- 125 test can detect a protein that’s often found on the surface of ovarian cancer cells. Although tests could not definitively tell her doctor that Carolyn had cancer, it gave essential information and clues that led to her eventual diagnosis. She underwent surgery so that her doctors could biopsy her ovaries and investigate if cancer was indeed her diagnosis. Surgical pathologists tested her biopsy while she was in surgery and Carolyn was diagnosed with two primary cancers at once. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Stage 1B meaning that cancer was found in both ovaries. She was also diagnosed with Stage 1 Endometrial cancer, meaning that cancer was also found in the lining of her uterus.
Because Carolyn had access to timely and effective testing for cancer antigens, she was able to catch the cancer and be treated early and is now been cancer-free. Before diagnosis, Carolyn had never interacted directly with a pathologist or a laboratory professional. However, after she underwent surgery to remove her cancer, she realized everything revolved around the laboratory.
After her diagnosis and recovery, Carolyn traveled to many countries, witnessing the lack of awareness and education about cancer. In late 2011, she founded a non-profit organization called Global Focus on Cancer to help address these issues. Carolyn works to support awareness, education, and advocacy to help patients better navigate their cancer journey and improve their quality of life.
Carolyn encourages other patients who are living with a diagnosis to educate themselves as best they can through well-vetted, scientific information and to use their voice to ask questions until they are satisfied that they have received answers.