Our Stories

Read some of our stories:

Renea Matlock

Director – Norwich, CT

I met Ovarian Cancer when my mom was diagnosed at 59.  The news devastated me. What was more devastating was the fact that I had brought her to ER five times in the 2 months before the cancer was found. Each visit resulted in a different diagnosis, she had endomitriosis, she was dehydrated, she was faking it, she had gas. All wrong. She had stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. Our lives would forever change. After she was diagnosed, I searched the Internet on Ovarian Cancer only to find out that all the things she had been complaining about to the Drs in the ER were symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. She passed away 6 months later. Our lives changed yet again.  CT Women of HOPE is an organization where we reach out and educate women on Ovarian Cancer and its symptoms. Symptoms which are often written off as something else, yet they persist. Joining CT women of HOPE gives me the opportunity to talk to women about the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer and perhaps they will share this information with their friends and so on and so on until EVERY woman in CT knows about this disease.

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Heather Glazer

Communications – Bethany, CT

In April 2013 I will be cancer free for 2 years. I was diagnosed with stage 1B ovarian cancer in November 2010. I under went a full hysterectomy and had 6 rounds of chemotherapy. I am very lucky that my cancer was found in the early stages. Unfortunately most times ovarian cancer is found much later My doctor told me they rarely find ovarian cancer in this early of a stage. Being part of Ct Women of Hope is important to me to be able to help spread awareness of ovarian cancer and help other women and their families going through this horrible disease. My family was very supportive. I know my cancer was hard for my husband and children. It changed us all and made us stronger. My daughter who is now 11. Wants to help other kids who’s mom’s are going though the same thing. Aishy has made ovarian cancer awareness pins to raise money for ovarian cancer and talks openly about my cancer. I am willing to talk to anyone in more detail about my ovarian cancer journey. Please feel free to contact me.

Did you know my mom had cancer? It was a scary time in life for me. When I first heard I was nervous about my mom. When my mom had cancer we visited her every day. She had to stay in the hospital for three days at first to get surgery. But then she went through chemo. My mom said it hurt a little bit but she said she’ll be fine. It was a while before she was done with chemo. But guess what? She was better than ever. The only thing different was that she had no hair. It was tough for me and I don’t want other kids to feel that way. So my goal is to help kids feel like their parents are ok. — Aishy, daughter

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Jeanne Giarratano

image1I was diagnosed with clear cell carcinoma ovarian cancer on Sept 5, 2002 at age 47. My story begins about 3 months before my diagnosis.

Ever since my mother had passed away from ovarian cancer, at age 69, I was vigilant about having my CA125 done and annual gynecological checkups. I also tried to maintain awareness and take notice of any symptoms that may have seemed abnormal.

In June, I starting experiencing a terrible taste in my mouth and irregular periods. I just didn’t feel like myself so I decided to make an appointment with my primary doctor. As a result of that appointment, I found that my CA125 was slightly elevated, so an ultrasound was ordered. While waiting for testing to be completed, my husband occupied me with playing a casino game where a frog would jump from lily pad to lily pad and I would earn points. This took my mind off things, even if it was just for a short time.

My results showed something suspicious, so I had surgery to investigate further. During the surgery, the doctors found a tumor in my ovary which required a complete hysterectomy, followed by 6 rounds of carboplatium and taxol.

Walking into the hospital day one of chemo, we spotted a toy frog in the gift shop window, and my husband purchased it to cheer me up. From that point on, this toy frog became one of my good luck charms and symbols of hope.

During chemo treatment a blood clot was discovered in my lung so I was rushed back to the hospital until it was dissolved. After all my chemo’s, I opted for staging surgery since my doctors at Yale couldn’t really determine if my cancer had spread. There was no cancer spotted during this surgery, thank God.

image6 Fourteen years later, I am a healthy, active mother of 3 grown children and a very lucky grandmother of a beautiful grandson (hopefully more to follow). My one frog has multiplied to many, and when I support ovarian cancer through cancer walks, my team name is “Hopping for a Cure”! I am passionate about supporting CT Women of Hope because early detection is so very important!!!

image3 Luckily I am a success story because my cancer was treated early (my mom was watching over me) and because I had some amazing doctors. But most of all because I have a caring, loving, and wonderful family who took great care of me. My husband never left my side during my entire illness.

I did have testing for the BRCA 1 & 2 genes and was negative for both.

If there is one positive thing that this experience has taught me, it is to be grateful for your life and never take one minute for granted.

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Joanne Nesbitt

In 2016, I celebrated 12 years being a survivor of ovarian cancer. Thank you so much to my family and friends for being so supportive!

On March 23, 2004, I underwent total abdominal hysterectomy, bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, and staging for a Stage IA Granulosa cell tumor. There were no resources at that time and no organizations to speak with. I made a promise from that day that I would advocate for women to help educate and bring awareness.

It is my passion to educate and bring awareness to ovarian cancer and raising awareness. CT Women of Hope is making a difference in communicating, reaching out, educating, and providing financial assistance. Volunteering is important to me because you get closer to people, and you make new acquaintances. My self confidence has increased by getting more involved. It is important to give others hope because they realize there are people out there who will help them out. It brings back their faith and it enables them to draw strength from their inner-self. Knowing that I do something good brings an emotional uplifting that keeps me positive.

I love bringing hope and happiness to people and a good laugh to see them smile. I am a survivor one of many and proud to stand strong for myself and others.

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Sharon Waxmundsky

The volunteer work we do with the CT Women of Hope is very important to me. Spreading awareness about ovarian cancer, educating, and supporting those diagnosed is crucial to early detection. The reason I am so passionate about our mission is that my mom died from this disease.

She had just retired and was looking forward to spending quality time with our family and finally taking the time to travel with my Dad. She had symptoms of bloating and indigestion and was under a doctor’s care for close to a year prior to her retiring. The doctors never seemed quite too concerned and they diagnosed her with indigestion, gastritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Finally, after a year of medications without results for the previously mentioned diagnoses, the doctors became serious about testing her. We were all in shock when she was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and sadly watched as the free time she had eagerly looked forward to was now being spent on surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Our hearts were broken as she passed away nine months later, never having enjoyed any of the retirement she had worked so hard for and had earned. Ovarian cancer is very difficult to detect and the symptoms can easily mimic other less serious ailments like they did with my Mom.

Volunteering with the CT Women of Hope has helped give me the opportunity to help educate other women and hope for early diagnosis. The loss of my Mom has motivated me to help others.

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Briana Patriarca

As a young woman, cancer is not something that is usually on the forefront of my mind. It runs on both sides of my family and I am resigned to the fact that it is a diagnoses I will most likely face at some point in my future.

As I have grown older and the risks grown greater, I have avidly worked on my own personal health to try to lessen the chance and delay what feels like an inevitable diagnosis. Last year, I had a scare after what felt like a normal gynecologist visit in which a biopsy and additional testing were ordered. I feared a cancer diagnosis. My gynecologist noted that, at worst, I could be diagnosed with cervical or ovarian.

I confided in Joanne, President of CT Women of Hope, knowing that she had been through this. She was a wonderful source of support and education as I went through some initial tests. I was relieved to receive a negative result, but the experience definitely opened my eyes to the importance of knowing the symptoms and signs.

I joined the CT Women of Hope because I believe in their mission and feel it is important to raise awareness for Ovarian cancer which is not as “popular” or publicized. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause for cancer related deaths among women and only 15% of women are diagnosed in the early stages1. Early detection is crucial in treating the cancer and improving chance at survival, and yet it is often missed or misdiagnosed.

I am so grateful and proud to be part of an organization that is so devoted in helping raise awareness and provide support in the fight against Ovarian cancer.

1 “Statistics.” Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

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Trisha Fowler

I love to sing, paint, and draw. I am a devoted wife and mother of 5 beautiful children. I work part-time and I am a full-time student, studying Holistic Health Care. I love to hike and go camping, play cards, feed the birds from my hands, run a funny farm consisting of kids, wild animals, a 1200-pound pig, chickens, ducks, a mini-pig and many more animals to love.​ ​I love to serve others, help them find spiritual growth and empowerment, and fill them with light and love.

When I joined the CT Wom​en of Hope team I saw a strength in my mother, (Joanne Nesbitt), that I had never before seen. My mom is such an inspiration to me. Watching her interact with people and bring smiles to their faces is wonderful, but watching her bring hope to their lives by providing the resources she didn’t have when she was battling this deadly disease is a blessing. My mother fought her battle with strength and dignity when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She struggled to find information and help, groups of people to talk to, or any kind of resource to help educate and prepare her for what she was about to face. She was diagnosed with Stage 1A Granulosa Cell Tumor.

I am currently able to offer hypnotherapy for pain management and coping strength, auriculotherapy for pain management and emotional support, aromatherapy for skin care, (including creams and lotions for pain or general skin health), pain management and emotional support, aromatherapy massage treatments, life coaching and much more. It is my passion to help the members of CT Women of Hope, and help them find peace and comfort while they face this process in their life. I am inspired by their stories and the strength and courage they find to press on and it is my desire to help them, through empathy, compassion and loving care.

I am so fortunate that my mother is a survivor. She is a beautiful and wonderful blessing to us all and she has given me yet another reason to make difference, through this wonderful group.

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Dianne Sheridan

Biggest thing is I was incredibly lucky. I think my symptoms started in October or November and I only remember a couple of them. I think I first noticed something ‘off’ when I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom a lot more frequently. It was especially noticeable when walking my dog, Remi. Kind of frustrating when there’s no bathroom around! The next thing was my jeans getting tighter. I was trying to lose weight but seemed bloated all the time. One night just after going to bed I touched my stomach and it felt hard. Kind of freaked me out so I finally scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician.

My appointment was December 17, and I first saw the physician assistant. She was about to send me home with medicine for GERD when the doctor decided to check on me. First thing she noticed was my belly button sticking out- like I was pregnant. After a few questions she quietly told me she suspected I had ovarian cancer. She sent me across the hall to have an ultrasound and discovered I had a tumor on my left ovary. After that everything was a whirlwind. I had a CT scan, and then surgery on December 26. My gynecologist was able to remove all signs of cancer, but wanted me to go through chemo as a precaution. My cancer was classified as 1C.

I’ll be in remission 3 years on May 15. Like I said whether God was looking over me or I was incredibly lucky. I later found out that my physician had a relative who died of ovarian cancer so she knew what to look for. I hate to think what would of happened if she hadn’t checked on me.

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Jackie Falman

I would like to thank your organization for including me in your gift giving this Christmas. I received my bag of delightfully thoughtful gifts at my last chemo appointment at Women and Infants infusion center in Rhode Island. I’ve been making good use of the lotions and the gloves. And I look forward to using the card making items while I enjoy the aroma from the scented candles. I’ve already begun one of the books as well.

I had never heard of your organization. I live in Norwich, CT and was surprised to find one of your directors is in Norwich too! I’ve never been on the receiving end of a gift bag. I always was helping to fill fill them.

I was first diagnosed with Ovarian cancer in 1995. I had a hysterectomy due to period issues and as a precaution my gynecologist had them slice through the ovaries. Thank goodness! So my cancer was found fortunately. I went through chemo and all seemed well. Three years later I had a recurrence, went through a debulking and then went through radiation. After that I lived life fully until 2011 when my cancer came back and began to travel. First to my lungs and then to my ​vagina. I went through another debulking and since then I’ve had several different types of chemo, one of which was a clinical trial.

So I’ve survived for 20 years through being positive, lots of prayers, and great medical faculty at Women and Infants. I’ve learned to “live in the moment”. It’s the way I get through all this. And I’ve also learned, unfortunately, that there is always someone worse off than me. So I’m thankful for the life I have.

Thank you again for lighting up my Christmas! You truly are doing wonderful work.

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