When Michele McClintic was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it never crossed her mind that she wouldn’t survive.
“No one around me was allowed to think that,” McClintic told Dallas Express. “I stayed strong because I always knew I’d beat it. I have a great life, great husband, great kids, and too much to live for.”
Her husband, however, was devastated because he’d lost his mother to cancer and was fearful his wife would face the same fate.
“He struggled with seeing me not feeling well,” McClintic said in an interview. “I’m active and always doing things, and for me to not be able to do that bothered him a little. He also saw the physical changes in me, and I think he knew that bothered me. He didn’t like seeing me embarrassed about losing my hair and eyelashes.”
The couple knew nothing of ovarian cancer when it hit them and had no idea the survival rate or the treatments.
“He was with me at every doctor’s appointment, every round of chemo, and every day during my surgeries,” McClintic said. “We realized how strong our marriage is because we fought this together.”
It’s a second marriage for both, and this time, it’s easy.
“We are best friends, enjoy the same things, and honestly never fight,” she said.
President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Aug. 31 declaring September National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
“I call upon the women of the United States to speak with their doctors and health care providers to learn more about ovarian cancer,” Biden wrote in the online statement. “I encourage citizens, government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, the media, and other interested groups to increase awareness of what Americans can do to detect and treat ovarian cancer.
During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we honor the courage of those affected by ovarian cancer and renew our commitment to fighting this illness that takes the lives of far too many women.”
When McClintic first started experiencing symptoms, the Dallas resident had a bloated feeling in her stomach. She was tired and often had to urgently urinate. Initially, the mother of two grown children wasn’t alarmed until she learned that her symptoms were indicative of ovarian cancer.
“They caught it before it spread too far,” she said.
Ovarian cancer tends to form in the tissues of one or both female reproductive organs, known as the ovaries. The price McClintic paid to be restored from ovarian cancer to health was her uterus.
“I had a complete hysterectomy,” she said. “Everything was removed.”
Now, when Ovarian Cancer Awareness happens yearly in September, the escrow officer at Independent Title is observant and commemorates her survival.
“The first year that I was diagnosed, which was August 2019, I joined the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, and we did the TEAL walk,” she said. “I had a group of people that did that with me, and we raised money. Due to COVID, though, we haven’t been able to do it the last two years, so I post things on social media about ovarian cancer. It’s known as the silent killer.”
TEAL is an acronym for Tell Every Amazing Woman. This month, the TEAL walk fundraiser for ovarian cancer research was virtual. Other events include the TEAL City Hall Lighting, which takes place on the last day of September at Manhattan’s City Hall.
“People think ovarian cancer shows up on a pap smear, but it doesn’t,” McClintic added. “I’ve gotten mammograms every year and pap smears, but it doesn’t show up on that. You would have to be tested for it with a blood test or through a vaginal sonogram.”
Although she is in remission from cancer, McClintic is tested monthly with blood work.
“If we see a trend of the tumor marker, C125, going up, then we would do more tests,” she said. “My body reacted very well to the chemo. My oncologist wants to see me every month. I’m fine with that just to keep peace of mind for my husband and I. I’m just happy that we beat it.”
According to the American Cancer Society, some 21,410 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 13,770 will die.
“Know what the signs are, and if you don’t feel right and you think something is wrong, you have to be an advocate for yourself,” McClintic said.
Signs of ovarian cancer include abdominal pain, indigestion, loss of appetite, bloating, and frequent urination.
“My doctor wants me to be on a plant-based diet because it’s been proven to fight all cancers, but that’s not happening,” McClintic said. “I limit my red meat, and I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. She wants me to eat all organic and to limit my alcohol intake.”
While McClintic is now cancer-free, she is low on energy and misses having the energy she once had. “I will probably get it back eventually, but right now, I feel like I’m constantly tired,” she said. “I also will always have the lingering thought in the back of my mind that it could come back.”
Now that the worst is over for McClintic, she notices that her husband is more grateful to have her in his life.
“My husband stayed strong by leaning on his friends,” she said. “He has regular weekly lunches with his best friend, and I think that helped him by talking, crying, or whatever he needed to do so he could remain strong around me.”
McClintic remained strong by monitoring her attitude.
“Take it one step and one day at a time,” she said. “Attitude is everything. Ovarian cancer isn’t a death sentence.”
She advises other women who are fighting ovarian cancer to find a trustworthy doctor who feels like a comfortable fit.
“Lean on your tribe as you need to,” she added. “It’s ok to ask for help.”