Peggy Ward was in great shape for a 79-year-old: very active and healthy. She was never sick, never had surgery, never even broke a bone. But three years ago that all changed when the severe pain in her right side that her local gynecologist couldn’t diagnose turned out to be Stage 3 ovarian cancer.
She knew something was wrong: she couldn’t eat, was losing weight, felt tired and weak. Her general practitioner said it was an abscess in her stomach. Once it was drained, she told him she wanted him to do what it takes to find out what was wrong. The CAT scan came back with the diagnosis she feared and she had to leave her hometown to find a specialist that could help her. ”I knew it was cancer. Although genetic testing showed no link, my mother died of ovarian cancer at age 58, my younger sister died of ovarian cancer when she was 61, and I’ve lost aunts and cousins to the disease,” she said.
Fortunately, one of Peggy’s daughters lives in Atlanta (Virginia Highlands), so Peggy stayed with her for the six months of chemotherapy the doctor ordered to shrink the mass. But that meant that she couldn’t visit her husband who was being cared for in the VA hospital in Dublin. Peggy had been traveling 30 miles each way every day from Cochran to see him, but her oncologist told her she shouldn’t be driving while having chemotherapy. In May 2014, she had laparoscopic surgery that removed her ovaries and part of her intestines. Complications set in three days later and she was back in the hospital for 13 long days. This time, she stayed with her daughter in Woodstock to recover and get physical therapy.
The doctors, she said, were amazed at how well she has done. She made it through a second round of chemotherapy, which involved treatments every two weeks for a year. During that period, however, her husband passed away. She regrets not being able to see him more often in the last year of his life due to her own health issues.
At her most recent visit, tests showed that she is still cancer free and has been for a year. But the doctors warned her, “it will probably come back.” The concern is so real that she still has her port, a medical device under the skin, which allows medication to be more easily delivered to the blood vessels. It gets flushed every six weeks.
“I’ve always had a very positive attitude and I believe in God. I just turned everything over to him. I believe that people’s prayers from around the country saved me,” she says.
Now, at age 82, Peggy is moving to a new home in Woodstock to be closer to her daughter and sister. Though she’s lived in Cochran for 45 years, she has no family there. Family support was key to her recovery and she still needs help now. “The treatments did a number on me,” she said. “After 48 chemotherapy treatments, I can tell you that ‘chemo brain’ is very real. I used to be able to cut the grass with a push mower myself, I love gardening and I traveled a lot with my church group. But I don’t have the energy I used to,” she said.
Still, she is looking forward to being close to her children and grandchildren and making new friends in her neighborhood.
Back to Survivors' Voices