Manitoba resident Donna Gaudard’s ovarian cancer was discovered by chance — and she’s now participating in a TFRI study to help improve the outcomes of future ovarian cancer patients.
Donna, 51, was diagnosed with stage 3a low-grade serous adeno carcinoma ovarian cancer after undergoing a hysterectomy for a cyst in her uterus in February 2014.
“It surprised everybody because I had no symptoms of anything,” says Donna, who lives with her husband and dogs in Oakbank. “Even my doctors didn’t think it would be ovarian cancer. They call it ‘the silent killer’ because, as in my case — and in lots of cases, too — you don’t really have symptoms.”
After her diagnosis Donna began chemotherapy at CancerCare Manitoba, and was invited to take part in TFRI’s pan-Canadian Ovarian Experimental Unified Resource (COEUR) study. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the western world— a grim statistic that motivated her to participate in the project.
“I’ve always thought it’s important to help out as much as you can when you’ve gone through [cancer],” says Donna. “Your outlook on life is a little different after something like this. It’s whatever you can do to help other people — and myself.”
COEUR participants donate blood samples and a portion of their tumour(s) to the project’s biobank to help the researchers develop new ways to diagnose and treat the disease. The COEUR team has collected more than 2,000 ovarian cancer samples from patients across Canada since 2009.
Donna finished her last round of chemotherapy in July 2014, and is now back to work. She will receive check-ups every three months for the next several years, and is in excellent health.
The groundbreaking research that the COEUR team is doing is inspiring, she says.
"I'm thankful every day when I hear about the studies they're doing and everything TFRI is funding -- it's great," Donna says. "The research is really awesome... Let's find a way to test for ovarian cancer, and cure this disease!"