Photo courtesy of Ginny Bourland.
Ovarian cancer survivor Ginny Bourland with Shea, Will and Bella Bourland.
Two years ago, Ginny Bourland was just like a lot of Hoover 30-something women, fulfilled in her career as an actuary and happily married mom raising a five-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.
With no prior medical conditions and leading an otherwise healthy lifestyle, Bourland took particular notice when her sudden weight gain was unresponsive to increased exercise and diet changes.
Bourland persisted in finding an answer despite her general practitioner and gynecologist attributing the symptoms to decreased metabolism and stress.
“I knew that none of those explanations really sufficed,” she said. “This was not normal for me.”
That persistence led her to the ER, where Bourland said she was determined to find answers.
Indeed, after a CT scan, Bourland was told she likely had a type of abdominal cancer. Within 24 hours, an oncologist confirmed it as ovarian cancer.
Bourland’s cancer was already in Stage IV, as is characteristic of ovarian cancer diagnoses in general, which are often caught in the later stages. This led to a survival prognosis of 18 percent. Despite that, the young mother said she never thought about not fighting it.
“With two little children and a supportive husband, there was never any debate in my mind about my options,” she said. “I had been struggling with the weight gain and bloating for seven months, and I was so relieved to have a diagnosis that I didn’t actually think too much about it being cancer.”
While she was adjusting to the intense care regimen her fight would require – an immediate hysterectomy and a 66-week chemo regimen – Bourland received support outreach from numerous sources, including The CanSurvive Support Group for women with gynecologic cancers. In addition to emotional support, the group encouraged Bourland, just two months into her diagnosis and treatment, to connect with The Laura Crandall Brown Ovarian Cancer Foundation (LCBOCF), which sponsors the Head Over Teal 5K.
“As a survivor, [I find it] very encouraging to see the efforts being made to make a difference,” Bourland said. “Laura [Crandall Brown] was in her early 20s when diagnosed and survived only 15 months after diagnosis. When caught early (Stage I or II), the survival rate is 90 percent, yet only 15 percent of these cancers are detected early.”
Head Over Teal 5K’s proceeds, along with other work from The Laura Crandall Brown Ovarian Cancer Foundation, are indeed making a local impact.
“In only the past two years, there have been hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for ovarian cancer in the Birmingham area alone,” said Bourland, noting that additional, promising research is also happening at the University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute and the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bourland’s long journey brought one remission status after her first course of treatment only to discover the cancer had metastasized to her breast. She underwent treatment again and again received word of remission status. After all of that, Bourland said she’s still got plenty of fight left in her.
“Anytime I think I’m worn down or that I don’t have it in me to go on, I look around at all that is being done in the fight, at all the people who have given so much of their time and resources to help us through this, at my precious family who are my biggest cheerleaders of all, and I pray for God to give me the strength for one more day and just continue on,” she said.
She doesn’t have to look far to find others joining in the fight. For example, Bourland mentioned UAB’s $10 million fundraising campaign to fight ovarian cancer, with donated monies being matched at 100 percent.
The 2013 Head Over Teal 5K/1 Mile Fun Run and Family Fun Day will take place on Saturday, Sept. 14, at The Preserve in Hoover. The 5K begins at 8 a.m., with the Fun Run to follow at 9 a.m. To learn more or to register, please visit thinkoflaura.org.