Jess Nichols

First post: Jun 29, 2021 Latest post: Sep 2, 2021
Welcome to our Caring Bridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place throughout this journey. My parents will also be helping me along the way.

Less than 2 weeks ago I got the shocking diagnosis that I have Stage 3c ovarian cancer.   It is not a complete surprise since I had a known genetic risk but the extent and speed of which my cancer progressed is terrifying.  I thought that if I followed my doctor's recommendations and did my biannual screening and my preventative surgeries by age 40 I would be safe but I wasn't.   I never thought it would occur at age 37.  I never thought that within 4 months my ovaries would go from normal size to the size of grapefruits and that I would have tumors on both of my ovaries.   I never thought that within 4 months it would spread in my abdomen and lymph nodes.   Right now I am trying to be strong so I can fight but it is difficult to say the least.   

I will start from the beginning in more detail.   Two years ago I found out that I had the BRCA1a mutation.  I was tested because my grandma and aunt have battled breast cancer and ovarian cancer and we learned that the genetic mutation was in our family.   Having the BRCA1a mutation means there is about an 80% chance that I will have breast cancer in my lifetime and a 40% chance that I will have ovarian cancer in my lifetime.  The plan was to get a preventative mastectomy and ovariohysterectomy surgeries and to monitor carefully until this could happen.    My doctor was strict about getting my ovaries out before I turned 40 since ovarian cancer does not hold a good prognosis and imaging does not do a good job of catching it.   We were planning on having a second child then proceeding with surgeries.   In the meantime, I was starting to get a screening every 6 months with a combination of mammograms, MRI, ultrasounds and blood tests for cancer markers.   This February I had my first consult with a gynecology oncologist with an ultrasound and blood test screening.   I was supposed to start this process last year but COVID got in the way.   My cancer markers were elevated but my oncologist wasn't worried just yet and I was supposed to repeat them in a month.  Well then life got in the way and 1 month turned into 3 months.   Delaying this test may have been the worst decision of my life.   This time my cancer markers were through the roof, which led to a CT scan that led to my diagnosis. 

Here are the details of my diagnosis so far (prior to surgery):  I have bilateral ovarian carcinoma with carcinomatosis and spread to my omentum and lymph node metastasis in my abdomen.   As my oncologist stated " everything below my belly button is cancer".   I have some enlarged lymph nodes in my chest but they are only mildly enlarged so it is still unknown if it has metastasized into my chest.   I have thickening of my intestines but it is still unknown if it is from metastasis or not.   So they are debating whether I will have stage 3c or stage 4 cancer.   This will be determined by my surgery and response to chemotherapy.   My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, June 29th.   The hope is to remove all the cancer they can find, which includes my ovaries and uterus, omentum, lymph nodes and likely part of my intestines.   However, there is a chance they cannot remove anything if it has invaded too much of my intestines.    In that case I will have to start chemo immediately in hopes they can attempt removal later on.    No matter what I will be starting aggressive chemo that will continue until the end of the year.

The good news is that my age and BRCA gene is in my favor. It means that I am more likely to respond to chemo and there are more therapeutic options. I found great oncologists and staff that are extremely experienced and compassionate. I can feel that they are fighting for me.

At first I felt defeated but I am starting to feel a little more optimistic and empowered.   This journey will be long and scary but I will fight to stay positive and beat this thing.   Of course my priority is getting as much time as possible with my husband and my baby girl, Poppy.   We appreciate all the love and support we have received.  Your thoughts and prayers are fueling my fight and keeping me going.   Love you all.