Shari Flamm started her battle with ovarian cancer in 2011. She experienced prolonged bleeding, irregular thyroid levels, and anemia and she was scheduled to undergo a hysterectomy. As a routine matter before surgery, her gynecologist ran tests for cancer. All her tests were negative, except for CA 125, which was high. The CA 125 test is used for early diagnosis of ovarian cancer. A normal CA level is in the range of 0-35 units, but Shari's was 121.
Even though her CA levels were high, her doctor decided to go ahead with the hysterectomy anyway. As the surgery progressed, her doctor discovered a mass, and the surgery was stopped. The mass was biopsied, and the results showed that she has stage 4 cancer.
Shari was then scheduled for surgery to remove the cancer that had already invaded her diaphragm, spleen, colon, and other organs. After the successful surgery, she had recovered enough to start chemotherapy. Although the chemo made her feel sick she was determined to stay positive and started working out at the gym and spending time with her grandkids.
During her annual cancer checkup in 2014, her doctor discovered 3 cancerous tumors but this time, she decided to try another treatment option. Instead of the usual chemotherapy and operations, she chose to participate in a clinical trial that featured oral targeted therapy stronger than IV chemotherapy. The drug was meant to shrink the tumors, but instead, her results showed stabilization – the lumps were not growing or spreading anymore.
Shari was comforted by the constant monitoring she received during the clinical trial. She became confident that if the cancer started spreading again, her medical team would catch it immediately. Also, this medication resulted in less hair loss and fatigue, which allowed her to have more time with her family. However, after taking the drug for a year, she developed a rash and decided to stop the treatment because of how uncomfortable it made her.
In 2016, 2 out of the 3 tumors had started to grow again and had to be surgically removed. But the good news was that Shari was then able to go home with a clean slate – no tumors, and no cancerous cells in her body.
Shari’s biggest takeaway from the clinical trial was to maintain a positive outlook because cancer feeds off anger, depression, and stress. "Your whole mentality changes when cancer disturbs your life," she says. "The things that weren’t important, are now ever so important. I’m a lot calmer now."