Woman shares her story of surviving ovarian cancer

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 7:32 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Doctors say ovarian cancer is very difficult to find in its early stages. It comes with few symptoms and is usually only detected because of an unrelated health issue. For one woman, pregnancy led to the discovery of her cancer.

“When you’re younger, you have all of these expectations of pregnancy. There’s going to be kicking and all of these wonderful things, but basically from the start of my pregnancy was constant fear,” said Alison Gilbert.

She was 30 years old when she and her husband found out they were expecting.

“It was actually the day after Thanksgiving,” said Gilbert. “I got one of every single pregnancy test and they were all positive.”

Five weeks later, she began to bleed. After her eight-week ultrasound, Gilbert’s doctor called with the news that would change all of those pregnancy expectations.

“He said that he had found what looked like cysts,” said Gilbert.

Those results were forwarded to oncology and a few weeks later at another ultrasound, more bad news.

“(The doctor) got the results back and they had actually grown,” said Gilbert.

After confirming with a team in Marshfield, Gilbert’s local doctor decided surgery was needed to take a closer look. At 14 weeks pregnant, she went in for the operation.

“I just remember going into that surgery and not knowing if I would come out...if the baby would survive,” said Gilbert.

When she woke up, she was devastated.

“They ended up taking my whole left ovary and Fallopian tube and three quarters of my right,” said Gilbert.

The doctors had found ovarian cancer, but the baby was healthy.

“(The doctor) went and grabbed a monitor and let me hear the heartbeat, and he was fine,” said Gilbert.

A month later, doctors told Gilbert she was cleared of cancer. After additional months of pain, complications, bedrest and a C-section, she got to meet her son, Henry.

“I think of him as my hero because without that first ultrasound, I would never have known about the cancer,” said Gilbert.

“We generally find early ovarian cancer by luck,” said Dr. David Hirsch, at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “It doesn’t have a good screening method like there’s no pap test for ovarian cancer, there’s no mammogram for ovarian cancer. It tends to creep up on people and they don’t realize they have it until it’s quite advanced.”

“Pay attention to your body because the smallest thing could mean something big,” said Gilbert. “I will always think of (Henry) as my hero. He saved my life.”

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