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Agata suffers from ovarian cancer. For over 20 years she worked in a foreign corporation, where, as she herself admits, she learned to perform tasks. She had no idea that she would need this skill in her battle against cancer in the future. Currently, he works at the Dean's Office of the Faculty of Humanities at one of the universities in Warsaw.

Marcelina Dzięciołowska talks to Agata Pilaszewska about ovarian cancer.

M.D .: When did you hear about your cancer?

A.P .: At the end of January this year. I will be celebrating the "two years" of my official diagnosis, but I had suspicions a few months earlier, so for two and a half years (as I read somewhere and I liked this paraphrase of the saying): "I am taking the horns with cancer".

What made you suspect that something is wrong?

It was 2022 which started badly for me because my husband passed away in mid-January. There were also some perturbations at work, changes and so on, so I had quite a lot of stress in my life. During the summer, I felt that I had very little strength, I got tired quickly and I was not myself at all.

Did you already link these symptoms with cancer?

No, I absolutely did not associate it with cancer. I thought it was stress and exhaustion. Gastric problems came in early fall.

What kind of ailments exactly were these?

Stomach pains, constipation alternating with diarrhea, problems with flatulence, nausea. I still thought that it was caused by stress or peptic ulcer disease, because I had such an episode in my life too.

Did you see your doctor with these symptoms?

Yes, in November 2022 I finally mobilized myself and went to the gastroenterologist. By that time, he had also started suffering from liver pains. The research was quite insightful. Initially, the gastroenterologist persistently asked if I was a person abusing alcohol. In the end, however, she believed that I was not and referred me for research.

What kind of research was it?

A morphology that showed nothing at all. The next examination I was supposed to perform was an ultrasound of the abdominal cavity. This was followed by gastroscopy and colonoscopy. I did the ultrasound in December and I think that if the doctor who did the examination had tried a little harder, it would have beenlet us know what's going on. It was enough for her to slide down the skin a little lower so she could see that there were solid bumps already. Therefore, another examination did not show anything, and the gastroenterologist said that it was probably neurotic.

Did you let go, if the results were good?

Then a lamp came on, that my waist size increased a lot, and I did not start to eat any more. Besides, I had this "bomb" in the back of my head all the time, because my mother had cancer and died of breast cancer. Therefore, I was convinced that this cancer could also catch me.

Has anyone in your family suffered from cancer?

My grandmother - my mother's mother, so I made this diagnosis myself. Of course, I got the Google search engine and checked the symptoms, back pain was added to it, so I kind of knew it was cancer. There is a reason why it is said that ovarian cancer is called "Silent killer" because it gives very non-specific symptoms.

Did you take care of prophylaxis before the onset of suspicious symptoms?

Very. I was fixated on the prevention of breast cancer. Practically during every bath, I thoroughly examined my breasts. Two times a year I have performed breast ultrasound from the age of 42, every year mammography and ultrasound of the reproductive organ. I remember today that in April 2022 I was at the gynecologist and I was doing a transvaginal ultrasound, which showed nothing. This silent killer not only gives such non-specific symptoms, sits quietly for a long time, and already ravages the body, lurks and attacks when it is 3rd or 4th degree. Rarely, this type of cancer is detected early. This is usually pure coincidence.

So it can be said that the prevention of ovarian cancer is basically non-existent?

You could say that. Even regular ultrasound examinations may not protect us from the disease.

Do you suspect, apart from genetic factors, what else could have contributed to the development of cancer?

Unfortunately, I was smoking cigarettes, which may have contributed to my cancer.

What happened next?

When I went to the gynecologist, I was examined, markers were taken and I got the result in black and white, this result did not shock me that much. I was already prepared that, unfortunately, it would end this way.

What helped you with that?

Maybe the fact that I am a taskmaster - work in a corporation has taught me that. Of course, I cried a little and asked myself the sacramental question: "Why me?" But I realized this was a stupid question and thought why not me? If not me, who? My friend, friend,cousin? Stupid question, right? It just happened that I did. When I cried out, I treated it as another log from which you have to build stairs to your goal or success.

What was your goal?

I set myself a goal to survive as long as possible. I did not specify how much it should be, just as long as possible.

What happened next?

These were the beginnings of the pandemic, and thus the time when the first problems with the availability of doctors began to appear. My husband was a doctor, so I took advantage of some opportunities and connections. I was operated on very quickly, the operation was performed in Lublin.

What was the operation like?

Full hysterectomy, i.e. removal of the uterus with appendages and excision of as much tumor tissue as possible, which has already spread inside the abdominal cavity.

Does this type of procedure guarantee safety, i.e. that the cancer will not come back?

Absolutely not. It is best if this procedure is performed by a skilled specialist, preferably an oncosurgeon, because the whole success is to skillfully cut as much as possible. This is an art, especially if it is already scattered around the peritoneum, but it is really rarely possible to remove everything because this tumor tissue is at different stages of growth and sometimes it may be invisible. So the operation itself is not even half the battle. This is just the beginning.

In your case, it was cancer of both ovaries.

Yes, I had to see the oncologist as soon as possible to start targeted treatment. Before the operation, I got the DiLO card and here you have to remember to fight for yours. You need to ask your family doctor for it, not a gynecologist or oncologist. This is very important.

What happened next?

With the DiLO card I went to the European He alth Center (ECZ) in Otwock. I didn't wait long for the visit, it was a matter of about a week and I got under the professional wings of my angel - oncologists, Dr. Małgorzata Kuc-Rajcy.

What was your first visit to the ECZ in Otwock?

All documents have been reviewed and a treatment regimen agreed.

Did you ask about prognosis?

No, I think at this stage doctors just don't know what to answer. The worst thing is when someone becomes fixated on something and it is difficult to function, because such a person focuses only on the time they have left.

What was your first chemo like?

It was a shock for me and my body, I ended up in the hospital after it. My body rebelled, everything went wrong with me.

How did you react?

It wasthe first moment I broke down. I figured if it was going to be this way, I would stop treating myself.

Did you have someone to count on?

Yes. In such a situation, support is very important, both from the doctor and from family or even friends. Sooner or later, everyone will have a breakdown - for me it was the first chemotherapy and its effects, I preferred to die than go through it.

When did your hair come out?

Very fast. It only made matters worse. I was one big negation. Everything was on there. I remember that then my son - he is an adult, twenty-year-old interviewed me.

What did you say?

As I already mentioned, my husband was a doctor. It is known that, like a doctor - my husband assured that he would cope with the disease on his own, persuaded him not to take him for a consultation or treatment and, as a consequence, died after a few weeks. My son then used the argument that he had let my father die because he had listened to him for too long and was taken to the hospital too late, and that he would not let me.

How did you react to your son's words?

It shocked me. But I took it for myself. I started searching the Internet. I wasn't looking for any miraculous means, it even outraged me. It is terrible that people can so hideously prey on someone else's misfortune and resignation by offering strange things.

What information were you looking for?

First of all, I tried to check the forums and looked for people who also went through it. I also found a beautiful book by Ewa Guderian-Czaplińska, "Trojanka. 10 private tips for beginners in the chemotherapy of triple-negative breast cancer. I was not influenced by the title breast cancer, because chemistry is chemistry. This book really helped me a lot, there are many useful tips written in simple and accessible language.

We often hear that cancer patients seek support from cancer patients. Did you manage to establish such a relationship?

I wasn't looking for such acquaintances. My mother found such a friendship, it was a really deep relationship. Unfortunately, this lady died before my mother. She took it a lot. I wanted to avoid it. Going to consecutive cycles of chemistry, of course, you meet sick people there and the conversation then always starts with the topic of disease or treatment, but I prefer to talk about where someone goes on vacation than about cancer. I also found the website of the Blue Butterfly Association, which I liked very much. I checked what activities are organized by this association, but that was my way.

I also talked about this type of institution with a psycho-oncologist - Ms Milena Dzienisiewicz, who you can always talk to at ECZ-Otwock. In addition, the university where I work also has a large psychology department and I talked to many people there too.

How do you live with the diagnosis?

As my friend puts it, I have quite a "joking" character. I try to ridicule this cancer in my eyes and in the eyes of others at every possible opportunity.

This is a great method. I once read about the fact that it is recommended in stressful situations, such as an interview. The idea was to ridicule what causes us fear.

Yes, and then I did it quite intuitively. It was only later that I read about how you can deal with this.

I remember a situation when I was dealing with some official matter. The lady in this institution said to me then that I had to wait, because it would take a long time, and she jokingly said: "I wish it would not last for the rest of my life".

What did you say?

That he has to hurry up, because it might be in a moment. I try to have this approach all the time. We deal not only with the problem of cancer, but unfortunately the cancer itself and the way it is treated make one heal and the other suffer as a result. My heart is heavily burdened by chemotherapy. But there is also a way.


ECZ-Otwock offers the help of a cardiooncologist. We are looked after by prof. Sebastian Szmit, I really like these visits to him. They take place every 3 months, the professor always asks which floor my cancer allowed me to go to today.

What is important in treating cancer?

In the treatment of cancer, everything that is around is important. You shouldn't just focus on treating your cancer, you need to be mindful of everything, not just the underlying disease.

You have to listen to yourself, I already know perfectly well what is a symptom of cancer and what is, for example, a cold. After these two years, every patient who devotes even a little mindfulness to this disease should know it.

Is it possible to "sense" the disease by paying more attention to your body?

Most of us have so-called "Third eye", before all the tests, each of us feels that something has appeared. Doctors confirm that if a patient feels that he is sick, later tests confirm it.

The problem is the "fast" times we live in. We do not have the possibility to think for even a moment.

I don't think you can explain yourself with the lack of time when it comes to our he alth and life. You should stop for at least 5 minutes a day andlisten to your body.

What is the treatment and availability of specialists in difficult times of the pandemic?

We, ECZ-Otwock patients, cannot complain about the availability of treatment. The door has never been closed before us, and the treatment continues. We are probably very lucky compared to other patients who have repeatedly postponed operations, which only depresses us.

I think that in the treatment of cancer (and not only) some of the psyche is of great importance.

Of course, you have to take care of yourself in all respects.

We as a society have a problem with mindfulness, prevention and taking care of our he alth. There was always a problem with that. The pandemic only makes it worse. Even among my friends, I observe that they put off prophylaxis for later.

In my case, the diagnosis stimulated me to act. But I know people who reacted quite the opposite in this situation and hid their heads in the sand. Many people suspect that something is wrong, but they don't want to know about it, they don't want to drill down.

What should not be done knowing the diagnosis?

First of all, read the statistics. In some cases, such as with ovarian cancer, these statistics are inexorable. If someone in a weaker mental condition reads this, they may refuse treatment because they will lose their motivation. We will not change the Internet, but it is good to look for examples of patients who survived, because why did they survive? Only because they took up the fight. As in war, it is necessary to get to know the enemy, learn about his weaknesses and lead the fight strategically. There is no other way, the same will not perish.

I think this is the best solution. It is also worth asking someone who broke down in such a situation, but finally coped with it.

Of course. At the beginning of my journey my friends told me: "I understand you", to which I replied "No, my love - you do not understand, but I thank you for supporting me in this way".

These are difficult situations, not everyone knows what to say.

A lot depends on the environment in which you live. Some communities still believe that cancer can be infected. I have heard many shocking stories where, for example, in the post office someone was wiping the door handles on a cancer patient so as not to get infected.

In small environments there is also a belief that it is a shame to admit to being ill.

This is one of the reasons why we talk - we dispel this harmful, untrue information about neoplastic diseases. You also often hear that cancer always means death, which is nonsense.

Yes, this view consists of the fact that the information about Fr.In the diagnosis, many people break down, refuse to believe it, and therefore fail to undergo treatment and die. That's where it comes from.

How is it with you?

I try to celebrate each day, because there may not be another one. I also changed my way of being and thinking. I have plans, I set short-term goals, but real ones. I stopped making far-reaching plans. I try to make these goals as realistic as possible, because it gives me such satisfaction that I managed to achieve what I planned.

What about dreams?

I never stop dreaming, although my dreams often don't come true.

Where do you get your strength from?

The fact that I am professionally active gives me a lot - that I have to get up, wash the rest of my hair or put on a wig, make-up, get dressed, that I have to go out to people, that I don't think about one thing over and over again. It is very important to have a total springboard. In my case, it is a professional job.

Do your colleagues know about the disease?

Yes, I absolutely did not hide it. Everyone knows because, as I said before, I like to joke about cancer, and a lot of the time when I run errands in college, that's the way I joke.

I must admit that in a way I feel admiration that cancer patients often have more distance and strength to face life's difficulties than he althy people. This is probably why they are considered good "teachers of life". Many he althy people do not appreciate what they have on a daily basis. It is only when confronted with misfortune that you begin to re-evaluate your life and live on your own rules.

I think there is always something for something. Life had its plans to burden me with it. It is important not to deny in any way that you are sick, because then nothing can be done to cure it.

For me, cancer is like alcoholism. Even if such a person admits that he has a problem and begins treatment, he will remain an alcoholic for the rest of his life - active or inactive. Ovarian cancer is a chronic disease and I am aware that it will not cure myself. However, I can “silence” this disease and maybe it will never let me know about myself again, but I may die for it tomorrow in a road accident.

None of us can predict when and how we will die. It is worth living every day and appreciating it while it lasts.

Sometimes I think that it would be a pity to leave this world, but on the other hand it has to happen sometime.

What did your cancer take away?

He has deprived me of many things. I don't have the confidence I used to have anymore. On the other hand, it strengthened my sense of me, I ammore aware of her body and herself. There are times when I get sad, but I try to keep those moments short.

On the one hand, you should allow yourself the moments of weakness and sadness to be able to experience them within yourself and not to deny that you experience them. On the other hand, however, this sadness cannot be allowed to settle in us permanently. This is a very fine line that is very easy to cross.

It's true. I was reminded of a story my grandfather once told me that from the moment we were born, we all grow old. It shocked me a lot.

What are you afraid of?

There is one thing in me that is in me. I am very afraid of pain, and cancer is, in a way, quite strongly associated with great pain. When my metastases started to hurt me, my oncologist immediately prescribed me an oncological pain reliever and said that the cancer should not hurt. So we, cancer patients, have the right to live and die without pain. It is very important to be aware that we do not need to be in pain. After all, this is how all these drugs were created.

It is also important that doctors remember about it, because pain does not ennoble us in any way. It will only make this comfort of life or the end of life a drama, and I don't want to die in pain.

I told my family that if the disease began to progress and it would not be possible to stop it, I would ask them to be placed in a hospice.

Where did this decision come from?

I don't want my son to mention me as a burden he had to deal with. I want him to remember the good times.

At what stage is your illness now?

I'm in progress again, I've started another chemo, now I have it every week. This is another goal for me - to put the disease to sleep. So far I had 5 infusions. As my oncologist said - I am quite a reluctant patient, because after chemotherapy I have peace for several months, and then I relapse. And it all starts all over again.

However, the doctor told me that doesn't mean it is bad. She told me that sometimes with those more "resistant" patients who require more "reboots", life takes longer.

You could say the prognosis is good after all.

Yes, I want to believe that.

Has the body come to terms with chemistry?

Yes, the first one "killed" me, but now it's pretty good. It may sound cliche, but I'm just trying to live.

Will you reveal your goals?

I have my tasks at work, so I have to survive to deliver to everyonewhat I promised. My next goal is to renovate part of the apartment. I would also like to see my cat heal and plan a trip with my friend. We like trips to the seaside in winter. Well, as you can see, these goals are very down-to-earth.

So you are not going to bungee jumping?

I would probably give my cardiologist a heart attack! I would also like to go back to practicing yoga, but what I'm trying to do is have another resume, so I have to somehow "hit" the deadline.

What advice do you have for other cancer patients?

Seek help from others. Don't be afraid to accept this help. If someone offers to clean your windows, okay, come and do it. I will repay you in a different way - invite you to dinner or coffee. I do not push people away because I am sick, do not close myself to the world.

How do your friends react to your illness?

Among my friends I have people who still do not believe that I have this cancer. There is a lingering image in society of a person suffering from cancer as vomiting during chemotherapy, sweating, lying in bed. This picture is distorted. I have not yet met someone vomiting during chemotherapy, because it usually happens only a few days after chemotherapy.

Can you forget that you have cancer?

Last year I had a lot of chemistry and my hair fell out very quickly. Getting on the tram I was very hot and I automatically took off my cap, forgetting that my head was completely bald. The consternation on the tram was enormous. It wasn't until I started laughing that everyone on the tram started laughing as well.

Have you ever consciously went out into the street without a wig?


Didn't you have a problem with that?

No. This is a problem especially for people who had long, well-groomed hair. There are methods to protect them, but there are pros and cons.

For example?

It may happen that a cancer cell that should have fallen out of hair will remain in the body and cause metastasis to the brain. It doesn't make sense to me.

Is it true that hair grows back prettier after chemotherapy?

Yes, that's true - that's how it was in my case.

How is the intimate area in oncological disease?

I would like to start with the fact that the diagnosis and the doctor can "find" us ovarian cancer. In addition, she is also a seamstress who may notice that our waist circumference has changed. Unfortunately, I rarely use it. And the other person is your partner. On my example, I know that there may be pain during intercourse, which at first glance may not be associated with cancer, but it may be the first sign thatto see a gynecologist.

What about after surgery and chemotherapy?

As far as I am concerned, it looks poor.


For two reasons. The first is that I have been stripped of the feminine attributes that somehow maintain our libido. And the other is the psychic part. I cannot overcome myself and it is not a visual problem, because apart from the scar after surgery, it is not visible for me. This is still a topic that I have not fully explored and I think that I will try to talk about it with a psycho-oncologist who could guide me to what this blockage results from.

It is definitely worth putting ourselves in the hands of a specialist, because sometimes we can hover around the cause, but the real cause may not be recognized. In such a situation, it is easy to fall into negative thinking again.

That's right. I will work on it. This is another goal for me.

You've been through a lot. I am full of admiration for your strength. Thank you for the conversation.

We don't realize how much we can take until we face hardship, fear and helplessness. Thank you.

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About the authorMarcelina Dzięciołowska Editor for many years associated with the medical industry. He specializes in he alth and an active lifestyle. A private passion for psychology inspires her to take up difficult topics in this field. Author of a series of interviews in the field of psycho-oncology, the aim of which is to build awareness and break stereotypes about cancer. He believes that the right mental attitude can work wonders, therefore he promotes professional knowledge based on consultations with specialists.

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