How one woman found her ‘teal’ lining
Posted: September 06, 2019 | Word Count: 1,185
To Anna, the color teal is symbolic of hope, awareness and community. Teal represents awareness of ovarian cancer, a disease that is notoriously difficult to diagnose and affects women of all ages. In May 2014, Anna was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer and would later experience a recurrence. From the beginning, she chose to live her life accented with a “teal” lining — turning what is typically an emotional and scary time for women into one of reflection and empowerment.
Her initial symptoms were deceptive — bloating, fatigue, aches and pains in her back until she experienced an unusual vaginal discharge. After undergoing a series of tests, a CT scan confirmed her diagnosis: ovarian cancer. “It never occurred to me in a million years that you could get cancer on your ovaries … it was definitely a state of shock and disbelief.”
For both her initial ovarian cancer diagnosis and recurrence, Anna underwent surgery followed by platinum-based chemotherapy. Immediately after treatment for her recurrence, she sat down with her gynecologic oncologist to discuss maintenance treatment options, which may slow the progression of the disease or delay future recurrences.
At first, Anna was hesitant to start a new treatment at the time, especially on the heels of a rough second bout with chemotherapy. But, after speaking with her doctors and support network she carefully considered her options. She made the decision to start on ZEJULA® (niraparib) after achieving a response to chemotherapy.
ZEJULA is a once-daily oral maintenance treatment for women with recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer whose disease has either fully or partially responded to platinum-based chemotherapy. ZEJULA has been shown to help extend the time in response and delay recurrence for women, regardless of having BRCA positive or BRCA negative ovarian cancer. BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. Women who are BRCA positive are at higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. A BRCA gene mutation can be inherited from a parent.
Taking ZEJULA provided Anna with an option, versus the "watch and wait" practice which is still often used as the standard of care for women who responded to platinum-based chemotherapy after a recurrence.
Any cancer diagnosis and treatment is overwhelming, but Anna did what she could to continue to find her “teal” lining throughout by staying informed, researching all that she could and proactively speaking with her healthcare team and support system to ensure she was making the treatment decisions that was best for her. She rarely finds herself dwelling on the cancer coming back and actively makes plans with her family and friends and looks toward the future with excitement instead of fear. “Life for me has changed, so I adopted a new attitude and I say, “Why not? Live life!”
As a result of her experience, Anna’s goal is for women to know that they are not alone, and to equip them with the knowledge and power to advocate for themselves, by knowing the treatment options available. She shares tips for women who are going through their own experience with ovarian cancer:
- If possible, have someone accompany you to appointments to catch information that you may not have. It can be very overwhelming, so it’s helpful to have a second pair of ears.
- Don’t dwell on recurrence — fear held her back too long. Don't let it interrupt your everyday activities, and don’t be afraid to make plans for the future.
- Ask your doctor about viable treatment options.
- You are your own best advocate and it’s OK to get a second opinion or do your own research to discuss during your appointments.
To learn more about ZEJULA, visit www.ZEJULA.com.
Indication and Important Safety Information
ZEJULA is a prescription medicine used for the maintenance treatment of adults with ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, or primary peritoneal cancer, when the cancer comes back. ZEJULA is used after the cancer has responded (complete or partial response) to treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy.
It is not known if ZEJULA is safe and effective in children.
Important Safety Information
ZEJULA may cause serious side effects, including:
Bone marrow problems called Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) or a type of blood cancer called Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Some people who have ovarian cancer and who have received previous treatment with chemotherapy or certain other medicines for their cancer have developed MDS or AML during treatment with ZEJULA. MDS or AML may lead to death.
Symptoms of low blood cell counts (low red blood cells, low white blood cells, and low platelets) are common during treatment with ZEJULA, but they can be a sign of serious bone marrow problems, including MDS or AML. These symptoms may include the following:
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Shortness of breath
- Blood in urine or stool
- Bruising or bleeding more easily
Uncommonly, fever associated with low white blood cells is observed during treatment with ZEJULA.
Your doctor will do blood tests to check your blood cell counts before treatment with ZEJULA. You will be tested weekly for the first month of treatment with ZEJULA, monthly for the next 11 months of treatment, and from time to time afterward.
High blood pressure is common during treatment with ZEJULA, and it can become serious. Your doctor will check your blood pressure and heart rate monthly for the first year during your treatment with ZEJULA and as needed afterward. Your doctor may lower the dose of ZEJULA to treat high blood pressure.
Before starting to take ZEJULA, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including if you:
- Have heart problems
- Have high blood pressure
- Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. ZEJULA may harm an unborn baby and may cause loss of pregnancy (miscarriage)
- If you are able to become pregnant, you should use effective birth control (contraception) during treatment with ZEJULA and for 6 months after taking the last dose of ZEJULA
- If you are able to become pregnant, your doctor may perform a pregnancy test before you start treatment with ZEJULA
- You should tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant
- Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed
- ZEJULA may harm your baby. You should not breastfeed your baby during treatment with ZEJULA and for 1 month after taking the last dose of ZEJULA
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
The most common side effects of ZEJULA include:
- Heart not beating regularly
- Pain in the stomach area
- Mouth sores
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Urinary tract infection
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in liver function blood tests
- Pain in your joints, muscles, and back
- Change in the way food tastes
- Trouble sleeping
- Sore throat
If you have certain side effects, then your doctor may change your dose of ZEJULA, temporarily stop your treatment with ZEJULA, or permanently stop treatment with ZEJULA.
These are not all the possible side effects of ZEJULA. For more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.
[Editor’s note: September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month]
This content is sponsored by TESARO/GSK