During September, we encourage the community to learn more about gynecologic cancers, like ovarian cancer, and discover ways to support the women affected by them through an initiative called Teal Takeover.
In 2020 alone, it’s estimated that over 113,000 new cases of gynecologic cancers will be diagnosed in the U.S. By participating in Teal Takeover, you can make a difference for women like Mai Linh Nguyen Achong, who received this life-threatening diagnosis.
Mai Linh’s Journey
When Mai Linh Nguyen Achong was just 22 years old, she was experiencing strange symptoms, like irregular menstruation, but she attributed it to having a low body fat percentage and working out often. Two years later at age 24, Mai Linh began feeling excruciating pelvic pain that radiated from front to back, to the top of her shoulders and down to her buttocks.
“It was crippling, and I could not stand to move for hours. The same episode happened twice,” she said. This was when she discovered there was a cyst on her left ovary that was about the size of a golf ball. The cyst was the cause for her uncomfortable menstrual periods and the sharp, stabbing pain she was experiencing in her abdomen. Mai Linh didn’t receive any follow-up from her physician at this time, and the cyst was left unresolved.
Then a few years later, her symptoms worsened, and she began experiencing more flare ups with similar pain. This time, Mai Linh went to a different physician.
“I saw a new gynecologist who gave me an ultrasound, and we went over the results. I learned there was a nine-centimeter mass on my left ovary, but we weren’t thinking it was cancer. The doctor said it could be a fibroid,” Mai Linh shares.
From there, Mai Linh’s doctor removed the left ovary and fallopian tubes. She was 26 at the time and was being treated for a rare type of ovarian cancer called granulosa cell tumor. Her treatment didn’t include chemotherapy or radiation, and she was told that since the cancer was detected early, her outcome would be better. “I didn’t ask a lot of questions,” Mai Linh says. “Now, knowing what I know, it can be a life-long disease.”
Shortly after her surgery, Mai Linh became pregnant with her daughter Angelina, now 11, and she was able to have a healthy birth experience. In the years that followed, Mai Linh was still experiencing discomfort and abnormalities, but her doctor wasn’t following up with her concerns. Mai Linh returned to the doctor after her daughter accidentally kicked her in the ribs, leaving Mai Linh in extreme pain.
Meeting Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. McKenzie
“My doctors found a mass on my liver that they initially thought was non-cancerous. It was actually a cancer reoccurrence that had spread, and I had it removed from my lymph nodes.” This was when she met Dr. Nathalie McKenzie, a gynecologic oncologist with AdventHealth.
Dr. McKenzie immediately started Mai Linh on an aggressive chemotherapy treatment and proceeded with a total hysterectomy. “Dr. McKenzie sat by my bedside and apologized to me that my care under my previous provider hadn’t included an oncologist visit before,” Mai Linh says.
Today, Dr. McKenzie is a source of strength for Mai Linh. “I lean on Dr. McKenzie. She prays with us and holds my hands, taking me through this.”
Listening to Your Body
“I wish I would have listened more to my body and pushed the doctors sooner,” Mai Linh says. “Now, if I feel any type of symptom or pain, I know Dr. McKenzie will do whatever it is I need. With this disease, if you don’t watch it closely, it can be super detrimental.”
Now, Mai Linh and her care team at AdventHealth are closely monitoring and managing her gynecologic cancer. She is participating in exercise classes, running five days a week, following a plant-based diet and finding support with others in her situation.
“I really like connecting with other patients who are going through the same things. I’ve been inspired by other women who are helping each other,” she said.
Participate in Teal Takeover for Women Like Mai Linh
Teal Takeover raises funds for gynecologic cancer screenings, research, wellness and lifestyle resources — all dedicated to empowering women facing these diagnoses, like Mai Linh. To learn more about Teal Takeover and ways you can get involved, 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. It’s our goal to improve gynecologic cancer care for women around the world.