Vickie Vaughn at home while undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer in 2012
One of the challenges of ovarian cancer is the difficulty in diagnosing the disease, as symptoms are often masked as very common gastrointestinal problems. This was the case with Vickie Vaughn, who went to see her primary care doctor in May 2012, with a complaint of persistent indigestion. It was after she had a complete work-up by a gastroenterologist, including scans and blood work, that she was found to have stage III ovarian cancer.
“It was the most devastating day of my life,” says the otherwise healthy 66-year old Catonsville resident. “That first day, I wanted to cry. The uncertainty of what would happen in the future, and the prospect of breaking the news to my two step-daughters, was overwhelming.”
Her fears were largely allayed on her first meeting with Sarah Temkin, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center. “Dr. Temkin is the best. She doesn’t sugar coat it. She tells you the truth, but she does it in a way so that it doesn’t seem so devastating. She explained exactly what was going to happen and what my plan of treatment would be. Everything went exactly as she said it would,” says Vaughn.
The treatment plan included surgery, followed by four months of chemotherapy. Vaughn began to lose her hair exactly to the day that Dr. Temkin predicted she would. “I bought a wig and wore hats for a while, but decided I was more comfortable without them,” she remembers.
Participating in a clinical research study at the cancer center in September, 2013
Having retired from her job as a fiscal officer in 2008, Vaughn returned to work part-time at the same agency in October while still in treatment. “Working with numbers helps to keep your brain sharp,” she says. Her part-time hours allowed her to continue working while undergoing chemotherapy. “My husband has been absolutely wonderful. He came to every single appointment with me,” she says, noting that not all cancer patients are so lucky.
Vaughn has been in remission since February 2013, and feels like her “old self,” with the exception of some neuropathy -- tingling and numbness-- in one hand and one foot, an after-effect of treatment. She is currently participating in a clinical trial testing an additional year of chemotherapy, returning to the cancer center once each month for an infusion and check-up with Dr. Temkin.
“I have nothing but praise for the team that took care of me at the Greenebaum Cancer Center. They are a group of really kind people,” she says. “They made me feel very secure.There is a lot of love and compassion there.”
If you have questions about gynecologic cancer, get answers by emailing Dr. Sarah Temkin with our free, online Ask the Expert service.
For more information about gynecologic oncology services at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, please call 410-328-2076.
For appointments, please call 410-328-2076, or 1-800-888-8823. If you are a physician and would like to refer a patient, please call our Physician OneCall line at 1-800-373-4111