As a survivor of clear-cell ovarian cancer, Janet Kempe often wonders, “What is different about me? Why did treatment work for me, but not for many others?”
Because there is currently no diagnostic tool for ovarian cancer, Janet is likely one of many women who have received an abnormal diagnosis. When she went to see her primary care physician for back pain, her initial blood work came back normal. And when her OBGYN found a tumor during a vaginal ultrasound, the prognosis was surgery simply to remove it. But the biopsy came back positive.
“If you think there is any chance you may have cancer, particularly if you are going as far as to have surgery – have an oncologist ready,” Janet advises. “I didn’t, so I had to go back for a second surgery to have additional parts of the tumor properly removed and staged.”
Thankfully, the second surgery and the treatment that followed worked. While undergoing chemotherapy, however, Janet lost her job. A retail store designer in a slowed market, she decided to use her free time counseling the women she affectionately refers to as her “chemo buddies.” That volunteer work turned into a paid position, as Janet started and developed a support program at the practice where she was treated. Something she felt compelled to do became real, meaningful work, and she felt lucky.
Years later, Janet faced another turn of events – the practice closed, along with her job. But Janet, once again, didn’t take it lying down. Instead, she turned one support group into several, meeting in different locations all over north Fulton County.
During her interactions with other survivors, she began to realize that there weren’t many people like her. There aren’t many survivors of a cancer as rare and aggressive as hers. But she also could see that no matter what the type of cancer, patients need to see survivors, rather than only seeing other patients going through treatment. So she created a website that allows patients to identify survivors with similar diagnoses, to give them hope and encourage them to realize they, too, can survive.
“Cancer patients need to know I, and others like me, exist. People with all types of cancer are surviving and thriving.”
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