I was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer during what we thought was going to be a routine laparoscopic procedure. So, at 28 years old, I woke up from surgery to find out I had undergone a complete hysterectomy and would be starting chemo in two weeks. My story begins on February 13, 2009, when my family and I sat in Baylor Dallas waiting for me to be wheeled into surgery. I was nervous, of course, but was otherwise calm as this was supposed to be a fairly short procedure in which I was expected to recover quickly and possibly wake up minus an ovary. My doctor and I had discussed every option, from best-case scenario to worst-case scenario, which was cancer. However, due to my age and no family history of ovarian cancer, worst-case scenario was the furthest thing from our minds. I honestly was more worried about the IV than the surgery itself.
My first indication that something was wrong was when I woke up in recovery and saw the clock on the wall. It read 11:30 a.m. I went into surgery at 7:15 a.m. and the OR, at the most, was scheduled for two hours. The next thing I remember is being wheeled to my room and hearing crying all around me. I opened my eyes and my dad was looking down at me. I remember saying, “They took it all, didn’t they, Daddy?” and he said, “Yes, baby, they did.” “I have cancer, don’t I, Daddy?” “Yes, baby, you do.” My room was full of about 20 friends and family members who were informed of my situation before surgery had really even began. I can’t even begin to describe how it felt to know that all of these people cared enough to drop what they were doing just to be there. Throughout the weekend, my room filled with flowers, gifts, food, family and more friends. Even though it became overwhelming at times, I had a constant reminder that I would not be fighting this alone. I went through six rounds of very harsh and aggressive chemo. During that time, I lost my hair, my physical strength and a lot of precious time. Ovarian cancer is one of the most deadly women’s cancers and is often misdiagnosed. By the time it is found, usually survival rates are alarmingly low. I was given a 20% chance of living five more years. That was four-and-a-half years ago.
Unfortunately, a cancer patient deals with much more than simply the disease itself. I struggled with the way my body changed, the way my energy was depleted and more than anything, I worried about my family and friends and how this was affecting them. If I am to be honest with you as well as myself, I still struggle with these things. I always will. That is the life of a survivor. There is so much more I can say about that time of my life, but fortunately it is a distant memory and I choose to focus on the present. I am now cancer-free and celebrated my ninth year as a survivor on July 13, which is the date that I completed chemo.
Before diagnosis, it was always a goal of mine to run a half marathon. I was training when I got sick and honestly didn’t know if I would ever run again. I have since run four half marathons, one full marathon (LIVESTRONG Austin 2012) and am training for my second full marathon. Life after cancer can be good. Life after cancer can be full. I am so thankful to my friends, family and LIVESTRONG. Because of all of you, I am here to tell my story today. If you would like to read more about my story, please visit I documented my entire experience from diagnosis, to chemo, to concerns for friends and family, to success and finally, moving on.
*This was an article written several years ago featuring Mandi on the LIVESTRONG blog. Mandi has since ran numerous half and full marathons. She is such a blessing to those who know her. Mandi is now 7 years out from diagnosis and doing very well!