Hope after Chemotherapy: Jayne's Ovarian Cancer Journey

Jayne wasn’t worried when she headed in for her routine annual physical exam. She left the doctors with the satisfying confirmation that at 60, she was still in the best shape of her life. At that time, Jayne enjoyed spending time with her family, working out, and traveling across the country for a job she loved.

While on vacation with her husband just a month after her annual check-up, Jayne recalls looking down, shocked. Over the course of just 10 days, her stomach had evolved into what looked like that of a seven-month pregnant woman.

Jayne and her husband went from her primary care physician (PCP) straight to the Emergency Room (ER) to avoid the roadblocks of appointment scheduling difficulties and rigid insurance regulations. From her PCP and nurses to the herd of clinicians at the ER, Jayne was told she was likely just experiencing a severe case of constipation and bloating.

After hours of testing and a CT scan, Jayne and her husband were faced with devastating news. Jayne recalls her doctor’s words vividly:

“You’re not full of constipation, you’re full of cancer.”

In that moment, as her husband was in tears, Jayne turned to her faith. She recited “my God is bigger than ovarian cancer” and focused on one thing—figuring out what she had to do next.

Jayne and Hubby

The following year Jayne’s life shifted from traveling, exercising, and working, to a string of appointments and invasive chemotherapy.

“I went from living the dream to ovarian cancer, stage III,” said Jayne. One of the biggest changes in her life was just living with the knowledge the she had cancer, and the approaching possibility of death.

A few months after Jayne’s chemotherapy ended, like most ovarian cancer patients, the cancer returned. Jayne was officially deemed “platinum-resistant”, unable to be cured through chemotherapy. She was left with three choices—stop all treatments, continue chemotherapy to manage symptoms with no cure, or find an alternative treatment through a clinical trial.

“I went from living the dream to ovarian cancer, stage III,” said Jayne. One of the biggest changes in her life was just living with the knowledge the she had cancer, and the approaching possibility of death.

Jayne began searching for clinical trials, a process she remembers being full of confusion and anxiety. It was difficult to navigate even for someone as optimistic and persevering as she.

After finding two local trials, Jayne was still unable to join because she was not ‘sick enough’ to meet the trials’ requirements. Jayne returned one month later for further evaluation and was informed that the cancer in her lymph nodes had progressed enough to admit her into a clinical trial at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center. Without an ounce of hesitation, Jayne joined the trial filled with hope and optimism.

“When you’re looking death straight in the face and you’ve been turned down twice, you’re willing to try anything,” she said.

Jayne began searching for clinical trials, a process she remembers being full of confusion and anxiety. It was difficult to navigate even for someone as optimistic and persevering as she.

Currently in the middle of her trial, Jayne told us how happy she is with the trial experience and her clinical team. From the immense support she receives from the doctors and nurses to the convenience of the appointments, she truly feels lucky.

“My treatments are non-events compared to chemotherapy. My infusions are only 30 minutes, it couldn’t be any easier...and the clinical trial nurse assigned to me is phenomenal, she has called me when she is sitting at home with her four year old. I feel very cared for and well loved.”

Jayne Treatment

While knowing that this isn’t the case for all patients, Jayne advises patients, especially those with ovarian cancer, to keep looking for a trial that fits their needs.

Our conversation with Jayne was full of inspiration and hope. While reliving her diagnosis in 2015, and her time in chemotherapy, she recalls beautiful moments in the infusion room with her husband, the nurses, and the patient advocates that called themselves “Jayne’s Platoon.”

“We laughed, we cried, we sang, and we almost got thrown out of the Vanderbilt infusion center many times,” Jayne told us chuckling.

Jayne Family

Like Jayne, thousands of women suffer from late-stage ovarian cancer, and are left with limited options for their treatment. At Clara, we hope to create a bridge between your care and potential treatments by making your clinical trial experience as simple as possible. Our mission is to make sure that all patients feel empowered with the tools they need to make the best possible treatment decisions for their health.

Skiliftdebbie
Kiran is a contributor to Clara Health's blog.