“Invictus Animus Est “ It is Latin for unconquerable soul.
Kristen Cuttill was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The type of ovarian cancer was IA Mucinous Adenocarcinoma. She has successfully defeated her disease. Now, she runs a YouTube channel and shares her journey of weight loss.
“On Saturday, January 14, 2017 my life took an unexpected turn. I awoke that previous Thursday, January 12, with a sharp, stabbing pain in my lower abdomen, mostly on the right side. My immediate thought was my appendix. I shifted position in bed and the pain eased up a bit. I was not fevered, or showing any other outward signs that anything was wrong, so I got ready for work and figured I’d bring it up to my doctor, as I had an existing appointment that evening.
At work that day the pain nagged, it wasn’t as pronounced but never quite went away either. At my appointment that evening, the doctor felt my abdomen, told me I showed no outward signs of appendicitis, and that I should go to urgent care if the pain got any worse.
The following day, the pain had made it difficult to rise from a seated position without gasping and having to catch my breath for a second so I went into urgent care. They did a urine test to check for infection that came back normal. Once again I was told I showed no signs of appendicitis, was told it could be a cyst. That doctor even suggested it could be a muscle pain and told to call the following Monday, to schedule an ultrasound. I left frustrated and exhausted.
I woke up Saturday morning fed up with being brushed off. I told my boyfriend we needed to go to the Emergency Room, I wanted some answers. They did a CT without contrast. After almost nine hours the doctor came in and told me they saw a “good sized” mass in my pelvic region. I was terrified. He couldn’t tell me what it was, and was being very elusive about the actual size. They did two types of ultrasound, still no one could tell me what this mysterious mass was. I was told I would definitely need surgery, and it would need to be sooner than later. I was in shock. The ER doctor followed up with my Gynecologist and I went for an appointment to discuss the findings on Monday January 16th, 2017
My gynecologist was wonderful, she explained that if she felt it was cancer, she would have to refer me out to an oncologist to perform surgery. Otherwise she’d do it and it was going to be a pretty invasive surgery. Laparoscopy was not an option due to the size of the mass, it would have to be an open surgery, and a six week recovery. I was so scared.
She called me that following evening to inform me in her opinion, and a normal result to the CA-125 blood test, that she could do the surgery. I scheduled the surgery for January 25th, 2017. It went relatively well although I was under for about 45 minutes longer than they anticipated. I was in the hospital for four days. It was a very confusing and painful four days.
The preliminary pathology came back as “borderline”, so that we took as good news. I was released on Saturday, and went home sore, exhausted, and ready to get my life back on track. My appointment to have my staples out was February 2, 2017.
It was at this appointment when everything completely changed. As the doctor filling in for my doctor, who was sick, was removing my staples, I mentioned that I had not yet gotten my pathology results back. She said she had them and we’d discuss. I knew immediately something was wrong. She gave me the news.
The tumor was sent to Mayo Clinic for further tests. The actual size was 14.5 cm x 13.5 cm by 7.5cm and it weighed nearly two pounds. It was also Cancer. Stage IA Mucinous Adenocarcinoma. My eyes welled. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. “It’s cancer?” I asked her. She said yes it was, and a rare one, even rarer for a 36 year old otherwise healthy woman with no family history. She explained the staging and the reports and what might come next. I just sat there and held Dan’s hand and cried. I was given two names of oncologists, so I could get more than one opinion (and I did). I gave the news to family and friends on the car ride home, and explained to my 15 year old son that evening. I was in disbelief. We all were.”
“After meeting with two different oncologists, it was determined that I need to have a complete hysterectomy followed up by chemotherapy (carboplatin and paclitaxel) due to the sheer size of the tumor, and the presence of anaplastic cells which grow quite rapidly.
On March 7, 2017, I underwent a robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy, unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (right side), omentectomy, and removal of pelvic lymph nodes for biopsy. Less invasive, maybe. Less painful, certainly not. Recovery was delayed due to developing MRSA and an additional three-day hospital stay.
I began chemotherapy on April 6, 2017. In May, I had an intraperitoneal port surgically implanted in my abdomen, which is not a common practice, and was frankly, miserable. I gained weight, lost all my hair, even my eyelashes. The pain in my bones and joints was intense and awful, I did not know bones could cramp, but they can appear.
Each chemo session was from 8 am to 3 pm three weeks a month, one week off for the doctor visit and recuperation. I did somewhere around 12 sessions total, maybe more. I still tried to make the whole process as painless for everyone around me as possible because I felt like such a burden. Being weak is never something I’m okay with.
During chemo, on Memorial Day weekend we drove to Tennessee so my son could see real mountains. Despite my pain and increasingly foreign feeling body, I managed to climb down and then back up one of the mountains to show him a natural waterfall. He told me I was a rock star, even though I felt like I was going to collapse.
I kept pushing along even though all I wanted to do was sleep. I began having some pain on my left side and learned had developed a seroma on my colon and had to have that drained. Due to that my oncologist said I could stop treatment since it was nearly concluded, my last chemotherapy was August 3, 2017.
I also had genetic testing done, to determine whether or not I carry a gene mutation that would make me highly likely to develop cancer of the ovaries, and also breast cancer. The BRCA gene. A damaged BRCA gene in either location can lead to increased risk of cancer, particularly breast or ovarian in women. A BRCA mutation is a mutation in either of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are tumor suppressor genes.
As it turns out, I do have the PALB2 gene mutation. The PALB2 gene is called the partner and localizer of the BRCA2 gene. It provides instructions to make a protein that works with the BRCA2 protein to repair damaged DNA and stop tumor growth. Women with an abnormal PALB2 gene had a risk of breast cancer that was 9.47 times higher than average. Women with an abnormal PALB2 gene had a 14% risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 and a 35% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70.
During chemo, I gained about 50 pounds. I have battled my weight all my life and I was so miserable. I wanted to LIVE my life when I got better. On March 5, 2018 I had Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy surgery. Having excess weight on me made it difficult to notice one main symptom or Ovarian Cancer, a bloated belly. It was time to get healthy for real and get to living my best life.
I’m a cancer survivor, a trauma survivor, a bariatric patient and an advocate for mental health. I documented my cancer journey from diagnosis on, and I make new videos every week about my weight loss adventure. I invite you to follow me on Insta at and YouTube.”
Motivation to fight cancer
“I am a survivor. I have always been a survivor. I was going to see my son grow up. I had not made through 36 years of struggle to only make it that far. No way.”
“Aside from unexpected medical issues, I think worrying about the financial impact of all of this was the one thing I could not stop worrying about. No one expects for anything like this to happen and most people don’t have a backup plan, myself included.”
Message to other cancer patients
“All we can do is be vigilant. I want to share my story because I want women to be aware that this can happen to anyone! if this scares you, it should. If I look back, the symptoms were there, I just didn’t pay attention to them. If anyone takes anything from my story, it is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.
If you feel something is wrong, go get checked out and don’t let anyone dismiss you. We all lead busy lives, we have obligations, responsibilities, and stress. Your health is the absolute foundation of all these things. Take it from me, I saved my own life!”
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