The Cancer Center’s Story Project is an effort to capture stories from our community of patients, friends, family, clinicians, and staff who have been affected by cancer in some way. This is Diana's Story.
- Diana was diagnosed in 2015 with ovarian cancer, and since then has been an advocate for clinical trials.
- "Diana is always the first one to the party and the last one to leave. She doesn’t stop going. Even now."
What has been your experience been like here at the Cancer Center?
Diana: "It started in June of 2015. I had had a UTI and my doc told me it was time to get a colonoscopy. My sister has polyps, so I needed to get checked. I went to the doctor, saw the GI, and he wanted to have a CAT scan done. I told him I felt pressure, and I’d never felt that kind of pressure before. The results came back and it was uterine cancer. I didn’t fit the profile for uterine cancer. You typically have to be obese, never have had children, and had post-menopausal bleeding. I am not obese, I have six kids, and I never had any post-menopausal bleeding. I just didn’t fit the profile. And so I had the CT on the 14th of June, and on the 15th of June my doctor called me crying and told me to come on in, and to bring my daughter, Andrea. That’s when we found out. My cousin works here, she’s a NP in oncology, and she called and said she had an appointment scheduled for me with Dr. del Carmen. So I saw Dr. del Carmen and the following week I had surgery. I then had chemo, and I did great. I mean, the chemo was not fun, but I was in remission after that."
"In September of 2017, I saw Dr. del Carmen and she told me I was her star pupil. I told her I had a few pains down in my stomach and she suggested that I have a blood test. A month later, I had another CAT scan, and we found out that the cancer had metastasized to my lymph nodes. I was prescribed one dose of chemo, and I really didn’t want to have that again, and I had been hearing about immunotherapy, so I asked about that. My doctors told me that it was hard to get in for a trial, so I had the one dose of chemo, and then I got the call that I qualified for the trial. I agreed to the trial. I thought ‘what do I have to lose?’ And, here I am."
"I found I am stronger than I thought I was going to be. I have a strong support system, my daughter, Andrea has been my rock. She shuttles me to my appointments, and my whole family is behind me. It’s been a rocky road. I learned about how strong I can be when I have to be."
"When I was going through chemo and I lost my hair, I hated the way the wig looked, so I just knit hats for myself in every color. I made a lot of them, and when I was done with chemo I had all this yarn so I knit some more and brought them down to infusion and there were two ladies who came in and thanked me and hugged me and told me how much their wigs bothered them. I made about two dozen of those. I have more coming too. Those two ladies were very kind, and that has made all the difference."
What has experience been like with the clinical trial?
Diana: "I had heard about immunotherapy and had been reading some articles about how they’re doing great work. With immunotherapy, if it works, it kills the cancer cells. I don’t have any side effects like I had with chemo. I don’t know how long this trial will last, I guess I will go on until they throw me out, until I flunk."
"Andrea insisted I come to MGH, the best hospital in the world. I feel better this time. I’m able to do all of my volunteer work, garden, everything that makes me happy."
How has Diana’s diagnosis and treatment impacted your family?
Sydni: "[Diana] is always the first one to the party and the last one to leave. She doesn’t stop going. Even now."
Andrea: "I’m happy that she’s still able to do all of the things she wants to do. She has not skipped a beat. I’m glad she’s going to be able to wear out, not rust out. She’s always on the go, always doing things, not just sitting on the couch. She’s got a great attitude."
Sam: "This time around, nothing has really changed about her personality. Seeing her really sick when she was first diagnosed in 2015 was hard. If it wasn’t for all that MGH has done… I don’t even want to think about that. I am really thankful that she got into that clinical trial. She’s always there for us, all the time, no matter what. Anything at all. Even just to sit and chat, get some good advice."
Diana: "For the last three years, Andrea has been my rock and my angel."
Sydni: "She’s the queen, I always call her the queen. She looks amazing too, everyone always asks how young she is. I don’t really remember the first time that she got sick, but I do remember it was a lot less of a positive experience. I was so sad the first time. When it came back this last time I told myself, 'I’m not going to be upset until [Diana] gets upset.' She has not gotten upset, she has the attitude to just fight."
Do you have any advice you’d like to share with your younger self, or to anyone else going through treatment?
Diana: "My advice would be to stay strong, stay positive. Always look for the good instead of the negative side of everything. Be upbeat all the time, that’s my motto. I’m not going to sit and say, 'why me?' Even when I was first diagnosed, I never asked, 'why me?' I’m not the type of person to sit still. I’m just glad every morning that I get to wake up, that I get to face another day. I’m not sure if I’ve always been like this, I can’t remember how I used to be, I was too busy raising six kids! I know how important that is now."
"I’m not sure if this clinical trial will benefit me but no matter what, at least someone else might benefit from it. Clinical trials are selfless. I don’t know what will happen to me, but I’m just going to accept every day, and enjoy every day I got."
Sydni, Diana's granddaughter
Diana is always the first one to the party and the last one to leave. She doesn’t stop going. Even now.
This interview was conducted September 8, 2018 and has been edited for clarity.