Golfer Molly Cade Triumphs Over a Once Called “Silent Killer”
A story of life before and after ovarian cancer - golfer Molly Cade
by Chintimini M. Notton of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
Picture of Health
Like so many women, Molly Cade believed in staying healthy and avoiding disease by exercising regularly, eating right and visiting her doctor for routine check-ups. Molly is a very active 53-year old mother, grandmother and avid golfer who has enjoyed the sport since childhood. Aside from her time on the green, Molly enjoys an extremely busy lifestyle, which includes hiking, boating, traveling and attending to her “grandma duties.”
And like so many women, Molly had no family history of cancer, never smoked, was relatively young and felt perfectly healthy. Yet, in April of 1998, Molly was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the deadliest of the gynecologic cancers.
How could I have cancer?
While being examined by her gynecologist during her yearly exam, Molly’s doctor asked her how she felt—a very routine question to begin an exam. Molly answered, “Great, but I can’t hold my stomach in.” Molly always had a flat stomach, even after bearing four children. Her doctor joked with her, claiming that Molly was simply losing elasticity and no longer had a 25-year old body. Molly’s gynecologist proceeded with a pelvic/rectal exam and discovered a mass. Her doctor ordered Molly to have a transvaginal ultrasound, and just two days later, surgery.
The date was April 6, 1998—Molly’s son was to be married in six weeks and she had just returned from an adventure trip to Belize. “How can this be happening? I felt fine—and now…cancer?” thought Molly. She pleaded with her doctor to postpone her surgery until after the wedding, but her doctor vehemently disagreed. Molly is now glad that she heeded her doctor’s adamant advice. Molly’s surgery revealed Stage IIIb epithelial ovarian cancer.
Once the surgery began and Molly’s doctor identified her mass as ovarian cancer, she took a non-traditional next step. She kept Molly in the operating room and held up surgery until a gynecologic oncologist could be brought in. Molly credits this decision with saving her life. “I am indebted to her for making that choice. This surgery should only be performed by a specialist in gynecologic cancers,” stated Molly. “Statistics prove a higher survival rate for women whose initial surgery is performed by a gynecologic oncologist, yet many women don’t even know this type of specialist is available to them.”
Happily, Molly came out of surgery and was able to attend her son’s wedding. She received 8 rounds of treatment (taxol and carboplatin). Molly says she never got sick and was able to keep up with her golf, exercise and travel. In December, Molly had what is called a “second look surgery” which found residual cancer. Then, in the fall of 2001, a recurrence was found early. Surgery and radiation followed.
After the Storm
Today Molly is feeling very healthy and has resumed her golf game. She comments, “Losing my hair and being so overwhelmed by all that had happened to me gave me a new sense of what life should be. To this day I am thrilled to be alive!”
As Molly looks back on her pre-diagnosis years, she says she noticed very few symptoms, such as the bloating and full stomach. She says, “Either no one noticed my expanding stomach or they were just too kind to mention it.” Molly first attributed her protruding stomach to part of life as a postmenopausal woman. She urges women to learn the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
Triumph over Tragedy
Molly is now a five-year survivor of ovarian cancer, and needless to say she has become an outspoken and tireless advocate. Out of this awful disease arose a new organization, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA). This non profit group in was formed 1999 and “has done magical things to put a face on ovarian cancer,” says Molly. That is what so many cancer survivors strive to do—give a face to this insidious disease and let other women know that a diagnosis does not mean an automatic death sentence. MOCA is a partner member of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, working together at both the local and national level to build awareness and educate women, healthcare professionals and policymakers.
Looking to the Future
Ovarian cancer was once dubbed the “silent killer,” but studies have since shown that there are identifiable symptoms, even in early disease. As many people are aware, early detection is essential. Currently, only 25% of cases are diagnosed in early stages. Molly’s advice to all women is, “Become an advocate for yourself. If you experience any unusual, persistent symptoms, see your doctor immediately.” The battle cry from many survivors continues to be, “Know the symptoms and listen to your body!”
The American Cancer Society estimates that 25,400 new cases of ovarian cancer are expected in the U.S. in 2003 and 14,300 women will die. While the incidence of ovarian cancer is not as high as other women’s cancers, the mortality rate is much higher. Nearly 50% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will die within five years. This is due to the absence of a screening tool, vague or missed symptoms and a lack of awareness.
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and partner groups like MOCA are out to change this. Until a screening test is developed and approved for ovarian cancer, the most important action women can take is learning about the symptoms and risks of ovarian cancer. This community of survivors stands by their one clear message, “Until there’s a test awareness is best.”
Molly Cade is Founder and President of the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
- Abdominal pressure, bloating or discomfort
- Constipation, diarrhea or frequent urination
- Nausea, indigestion or gas
- Abnormal bleeding
- Unusual fatigue, backaches
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Shortness of breath
TAKE ACTION if any symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks. Experts suggest a combination pelvic/rectal exam, CA 125 blood test and a transvaginal sonogram.
- Occurs in 1 out of 57 women.
- Today, most women are diagnosed when the chance of survival for 5 years is about 25%. Early detection can prove the survival rate to over 90%.
- Symptoms are subtle, persistent and usually increase over time.
- A Pap smear is NOT a test for ovarian cancer; it detects cervical cancer.
Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
910 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is a patient-led umbrella organization uniting ovarian cancer activists, women's health advocates and health care professionals in the effort to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments and a cure.