Ovarian cancer survivor offers hope for new patients

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BettyWhite.jpgBetty White helped doctors catch her ovarian cancer in its earliest stages by being her own best advocate.

She first went to her gynecologist after she'd been experiencing continual fatigue and lower abdominal pain in 1997. But the first tests the doctor ran didn't raise any red flags.

When Betty's symptoms were still bothering her three months later, she underwent a laparoscopy and then a complete hysterectomy. At that point, the lab results showed high-grade serous and clear cell ovarian cancer -- "a rather surprise diagnosis," Betty recalls.

"You know your body better than anyone else, so you need to pay attention to what it's telling you so that you can talk to your doctor," she advises others. "No one realized it was going to be cancer, not even my gynecologist."

Receiving ovarian cancer treatment at MD Anderson
Once her ovarian cancer diagnosis was made, Betty's doctor referred her to MD Anderson, a place she'd grown to love while working here as a computer programmer until her daughter's birth in 1982.

"I already knew MD Anderson was a special place, but I'd never realized I'd need their services as well," she says.

For her ovarian cancer treatment, Betty underwent six courses of chemotherapy. She's been cancer-free ever since then and "continues to knock on wood every day."

Sharing hope with new ovarian cancer patients
Nearly 16 years after her ovarian cancer diagnosis, Betty still frequently makes the drive to MD Anderson from her home in the Houston suburbs.

But now she visits for another reason -- to give her time as a volunteer advocate in the Gynecologic Oncology Center, where she meets with new ovarian cancer patients two mornings a week.

"I remember what it was like to be a patient," Betty says. "That's why I'm here -- to help combat their fear and give them the hope I feel here."

Watch Betty and her daughter Kristin Johnson share their advice for new ovarian cancer patients:

High-grade serous ovarian cancer is one of the cancers MD Anderson is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths. Learn more about our Breast and Ovarian Cancer Moon Shot.

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