During the month of September, we celebrate Teal Takeover, which encourages the community to learn more about gynecologic cancer and discover ways to support women facing these diagnoses.
In 2020 alone, it’s estimated that over 113,000 American women will be diagnosed with gynecologic cancer. By participating in Teal Takeover, you can make a difference for women like Sherry Baird who faced this life-threatening diagnosis.
Sherry’s Story: Endometriosis and Multiple Bouts With Gynecologic Cancer
In 2016, Sherry was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer at the age of 49. Sherry had struggled with endometriosis symptoms for roughly 30 years, including painful periods, uncomfortable bloating, back pain and pressure in her pelvis and abdomen.
When she learned more about ovarian cancer from a friend of hers, she was encouraged to take her symptoms more seriously and visit a gynecologist, Dr. Evelyn Morning, for help. Dr. Morning began monitoring cysts through regular ultrasounds.
“In August of 2016,” Sherry recalls, “My husband Scott and I took our daughter Caitlin to Florida State University to begin her college journey. Little did I know, I was about to start a new and rather frightening chapter in my life as well. Upon returning home, I went to my monthly visit with my gynecologist.” At this visit, Sherry learned from Dr. Morning that she had concerning ultrasound results, so they then did a blood test to see what was going on.
From this point, she was referred to a gynecologic oncologist, Dr. James Kendrick, who felt that her inflammation and cysts were from her previously diagnosed endometriosis. Just to be sure, she and Dr. Kendrick decided that a hysterectomy would be a safe option to relieve the symptoms she was experiencing and hopefully experience less pain down the road.
During the surgery in October 2016, she woke up from her procedure to find that cancer was discovered. “I was numb and in shock when my husband told me what they had found. And then the tears began to flow,” she says. “I had known three people in my life with cancer. All died within three years of their diagnoses. I feared this would be my story as well.”
Dr. Kendrick recommended six rounds of strong chemotherapy to ensure all the cancer would be gone. “One month later, I had one regular port and one intraperitoneal port (IP) placed so that I could begin chemotherapy.” After six months of intense treatment, Sherry completed her rounds, rang the bell and learned her PET scan was clear.
Five months later, she discovered a lump and returned to her oncologist. It was determined to be cancerous, but they removed it with no issues and no chemotherapy.
When Sherry’s next checkup with Dr. Kendrick approached in May 2018, she hadn’t been feeling herself, and her PET scan showed the cancer returned to her lower abdomen. This time, she began a new treatment plan that included chemotherapy again.
“The mental toll the treatment took on me was just as tough as the physical toll,” Sherry says. “I promised myself that if I got a clean scan at the end, I would stop the constant worrying and live each day to the fullest.”
And that’s what Sherry and her family and friends all hoped for — and received for about eight months until a cancerous lymph node was discovered in May 2019. She is now working with a radiation oncologist and just finished 25 radiation treatments with Dr. Matthew Biagioli.
Working Toward Feeling Whole Again
Though her cancer has returned, Sherry has not lost hope and remains positive throughout her journey. She is grateful to have been able to see her daughter graduate in May 2020 from Florida State University and she continues to believe that each day is a gift — one that she is so thankful for.
“Cancer is a word, not a sentence. My life is certainly not what I had planned, but that is ok,” Sherry says. “I am part of a network of survivors and supporters that works to help gynecologic cancer patients feel whole again.”
Sherry has learned that the right care provider can make all the difference in the world. “I am so blessed to have a practitioner who met with me before each chemotherapy treatment and truly listened to me, she said. “We were and still are a team.”
Sherry encourages other cancer patients to not be angry with their nurses or doctors, and to instead “try to leave your practitioners feeling better that they have met you.”
“Ovarian cancer has made me a better human,” Sherry says, “and my goal is to help others move forward positively with all the hills and valleys we encounter on this journey.”
Participate in Teal Takeover for Women Like Sherry
Teal Takeover raises funds for gynecologic cancer screenings, research wellness and lifestyle resources — all dedicated to empowering women facing these diagnoses, like Sherry. To learn more about Teal Takeover and ways you can get involved to support women like Sherry, click here.
Dedicated to Advancing Gynecologic Cancer Care
At AdventHealth Orlando, a nationally recognized hospital for women's care by U.S. News & World Report, we’re passionate about bringing positivity and hope to our cancer patients.
As part of one of the leading health care systems in the Southeast, our Gynecologic Oncology Program is at the forefront of discovery and innovation through a rich portfolio of clinical trials, large-scale clinical outcomes, research protocols and innovation, helping improve care for women around the world.