We speak with Rebecca Esparza, a passionate advocate for research into Ovarian Cancer.
“It was August of 2001 [at age 30] when I awoke one evening with a stabbing pain in my side that was so serious, I headed straight to the emergency room… I left with a diagnosis of “depression” and a bottle of painkillers…
"Something inside me – a gut feeling I can’t explain – told me to follow up with my gynecologist. A sonogram showed a mass and his educated guess seemed absurd to me. 'I think you may have ovarian cancer,' he said, matter-of-factly. I could not believe him -- 30-year-old healthy women do not get ovarian cancer!"
It was ovarian cancer, and surgery and treatment followed. "Scared and feeling helpless, I started my chemotherapy treatments on January 9, 2002.
"Just after Valentine’s Day, my doctor informed me the cancer had spread to the liver and lining of my stomach. I was now considered stage IV, also known as 'end stage' disease. My social worker told me to put my affairs in order. But I wasn’t about to go down without a fight.”
Today, Rebecca is still cancer free, but has many side effects from chemotherapy and multiple surgeries.
"We learned that mine was a rare type of ovarian cancer called germ cell, akin to testicular cancer in men. Germ cell accounts for less than 5% of all ovarian cancer cases in the United States."
Rebecca Esparza has been involved in cancer-related advocacy activities since 2003, representing many cancer advocacy organizations on Capitol Hill, including ACS CAN, LIVESTRONG, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and One Voice Against Cancer. Throughout the years, she has participated in survivorship mentoring programs, research advocacy programs and scientific training conferences.