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In 2009, Marcie Paul felt a lump in her abdomen. Marcie recalls that it "would be there one day and then gone after a few days, but it was always in the mid-abdominal area, so I immediately thought it was a GI issue." Initially, she suffered from severe abdominal pain, which was presumptively diagnosed as torsion. Her doctor ordered a CAT scan that revealed a tumor. In June 2009, five months after first feeling the mass, she was diagnosed with Stage IIIc ovarian cancer.
At the time of her diagnosis, Marcie recalls feeling terrified that her 12-year-old daughter might have to grow up without a mother. Nevertheless, Marcie resolved to turn her diagnosis into an opportunity for her daughter to learn something positive from this terrible situation. She realized, "I could not control if I had cancer, but I could control how I had cancer." This proactive attitude led her to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA), where she was instrumental in building a new Partner Member in her state, the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance. She also joined OCNA's Advocacy Leaders and Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women's Lives® (STS) programs. STS provides an opportunity for future physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physician assistants to hear the stories of ovarian cancer survivors in hopes of one day being able to recognize and diagnose this disease in its earlier, more treatable stages.
Marcie learned about the U.S. Department of Defense's Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) when she was nominated as an FY13 OCRP consumer peer reviewer by OCNA. This opportunity immediately interested her because she firmly believes that OCRP's mission is highly impactful. Marcie describes herself as honored to be working with the OCRP and truly humbled by the opportunity to play a vital part in this lifesaving work. She feels that reviewing research applications is intellectually challenging and stimulates parts of her mind that she rarely taps into during her general advocacy and community outreach activities. She also gets a kick out of telling her friends that she reviews scientific research for the Army because it clearly contrasts with her professional career in advertising and design. The reality that ovarian cancer survival rates are so low and have not significantly improved since the "War on Cancer" was declared over 40 years ago motivates Marcie to persevere through the sizeable volume of assigned research applications.
Although interacting with some of the nation's best scientists, essentially on their own turf, is certainly daunting, Marcie feels that everyone associated with the OCRP is approachable, respectful, and helpful. Marcie states, "While not intimidated, I am truly in awe of their high level of expertise and dedication. Yet, I also recognize that our perspective as survivors contributes unique and valuable insights that the scientists can't possibly have." Serving as a reviewer fulfills her desire to find meaning and purpose from her ovarian cancer experience.
For Marcie, reviewing research applications instills hope; it offers a first-hand glimpse at future work that will lead to the advances so desperately needed. There is joy in being able to share that glimmer of hope with the community of ovarian cancer survivors. As she reflects on being a survivor, Marcie says, "It is profoundly gratifying to be able to give another TEAL sister encouragement and some hope. For me, helping others - whether through personal contact, organizational programs, or public policy - really seems to take some of the curse off the horror of living with cancer. I suspect my desire to be a role model for my daughter is another reason this is a significant part of my experience as a survivor."
It never fails to surprise both those impacted by cancer and the general public that the DoD funds this lifesaving research program. With its cutting-edge vision, the OCRP supports research that is the main source of hope for better treatment outcomes for - and earlier detection of - ovarian cancer that will save women's lives.
Last updated Tuesday, September 22, 2020