Joanna's journey begins in the year 2008. She was tested by Myriad Genetics to see if she was a carrier of a gene that increased odds of breast & ovarian cancer because of family history. The family history related to Joanna's mother's side of the family which male or female could carry, and she was positive for BRCA1 & Ashkenazi Jewish. Joanna & Wayne then met with Kathy Helzsouer (prevention & research doctor), & a Genetic counselor in June 2008. Together they mapped out and set a plan for Joanna to have mammograms and breast MRIs every 6 months as well as a pelvic ultrasound and having her CA125 drawn every 6 months. This was continued for 2 years until something appeared on her mammogram. The anxiety roller coaster ended with a decision to proceed with a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction in June 2010. After enduring this change, Joanna's pelvic ultrasounds and CA125 being drawn continued until the Summer of 2013. A pelvic ultrasound showed a slightly enlarged ovarian cyst. Given the recommendation to follow up in 3-5 months, Joanna decided it was time after only 3 months and had her CA125 drawn. The CA125 level came back at 36 and the left ovarian cyst was now much larger in size. The doctor recommended a repeat of the CA125 work in case of a false positive which came back at 37. Joanna always planned to have a full hysterectomy at age 40, but after meeting with Kathy & other doctors, they decided together that it was best Joanna had the hysterectomy performed ASAP. They then met with Dr. Kevin Audlin in Winter of 2013 into 2014 to set up a laproscopic hysterectomy (through her belly button). Up to this point, Joanna had absolutely NO symptoms to insist that something could be wrong. The hysterectomy was scheduled for Valentine's Day, 2/14/14. Dr. Audlin went in with a scope and to his disbelief, he discovered tumors EVERYwhere. It was unbelievable. He decided to go in through another route in her belly and confirmed multiple tumors everywhere. Dr. Audlin then met with Wayne and family & stated he had to call in a GYN oncologist because of his findings; Dr. Ryu. A simple 3-hr surgery now turned into a 8-hr surgery. There were tumors on Joanna's appendix, which was removed, her bladder, rectum, liver, and belly. She had a total abdominal hysterectomy performed which included removing her cervix and fallopian tubes. When Joanna woke up in the recovery room, she woke to a sad look on Dr. Audlin's face as he told her she had GYN cancer and it was everywhere. While in the hospital she met with Dr. Ledakis & Dr. Sardi and they stated they had a great plan for her care. After being discharged after 5 days, she got a call from Dr. Audlin advising her she had stage 3C fallopian tube cancer. The roller coaster then continued and a CT scan and PET scan were done end of Feb. 2014. The PET scan revealed Joanna still had cancer on her spleen. Her 1st chemo was completed on March 10th. The plan was 3 rounds of chemo every 3 weeks, then she would recover for 5-6 wks before proceeding with HIPEC surgery (Hyperthermic Intraperidoneal Chemotherapy) with Dr. Sardi. HIPEC consisted of debulking and visible tumors and then infusing her abdomen with 105 degree hot chemo. Joanna's chemo resulted in hair loss, major fatigue, exhaustion, nausea, lack of taste buds and short term memory loss. HIPEC was then scheduled for May 27, 2014 and the surgery lasted 11 1/2 hours. Dr. Sardi was very pleased with the outcome of surgery. More tumors were found on her spleen (which was removed), then they removed part of her internal vagina, resected her rectum, removed parts of her bladder, stomach and liver, and an intestine section was removed but reconnected. Dr. then washed the inside of her abdomen with hot chemo therapy.
Joanna woke up in ICU on May 28th, 2014 and was taken care of by the amazing staff at Mercy. She was on a breathing tube & had it removed on May 29th at 6am. She was then moved to the cancer floor 15. Her A-line was taken out from her neck also. She took her 1st steps in ICU and continued to progress well. She was exhausted because of lack of sleep and the tubes that were connected everywhere. She was too tired to talk and had a very sore throat. Joanna continued to walk and do laps of the 15th floor despite the pain. She is amazingly strong.
~June 1st, 2014; National Cancer Survivor Day, she had her NG tube taken out of her nose. I gave her a mini facial which she just loved! I washed her face, put a warm towel on her face and then lotion, and I (Monica; her sister) remember her sighing & "oh-ahh-ing" and she said to me "it's the little things."
Doctors are very pleased with her progression, as is her entire family because she is truly remarkable and so strong! She had her 1st spell of nausea May 31st throughout the night but she believes its due to her over-doing the walking.
In the beginning, her CA125 levels came back 36 & 37 which for what Joanna endured, they should have been WELL in the hundreds. We are so lucky & blessed to have her here with us! Joanna's husband Wayne and mom Krystyna have been taking turns staying at Joanna's bedside day & night. Their support is truly amazing. The support she receives from family and friends is amazing, and I know helps keep her as strong as she is!
June 1st, I'm proud to report she was feeling good but tired. She looked great today...and its just such a blessing to watch her improve every day! She is soo loved!