Trees of Hope and MOCA: Nancy's Story

Updated: December 09, 2019 06:49 AM

"Like a lot of women, I missed the early signs," Nancy Schwerdt told us. The retired teacher and now massage therapist figured her weight loss was a natural result of losing her husband, Jim. And needing to go to the bathroom more, a sign of getting older.


But at the end of April, she found blood in her urine. That lead to a trip to the doctor. And then, the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. "At that point, things moved pretty quickly. This is pretty serious," she recalled.

It meant surgery first. Then chemotherapy, which lead to hair loss. And for most women, this is very difficult. It happened to Nancy over the 4th of July weekend, on a trip to Colorado. And she was going to own this part of the journey. "I sort of made it a big deal. My friend's son agreed to drive me around in the mountains. And I would stand in the back of the Jeep and rub my hair off. And I did!" she told us.

She credits loved ones for keeping her going during her treatments, some of which would last all day. "My book club would come. My old Easty buddies would come. We had a reading event. We availed ourselves to every service they had. The craziest time is when we raided the wig room!"

And of course, her loyal dog, Lotus, helped too. "She would come in during infusion time. And I think they (the staff) liked her the best," Nancy laughed.

Her chemotherapy ended in mid-October. She's feeling much better. And something else that made her feel better was finding MOCA and their online resources.

"It was a place that made me feel less fearful. I do think in this journey, the knowledge piece is incredibly important," she shared.

Then, she connected with other survivors in person. She and about 30 supporters attended the Light Duluth Teal Gala in September, which is a big fundraiser for MOCA. The event generates critical funds for research and for families. In this way, MOCA has given Nancy a way to focus on the fight for all women. "I can fundraise. I can help by showing up. I can invite my friends, and ask for donations," she said.

Nancy hopes to be included in a clinical trial that's being funded in part by MOCA. Until then, she's enjoying time with family and friends. And finding the silver linings. "When you look at the hour glass, you see it differently. Wasting time is just not an option. Look for the best things, and how to make the best of my world."

She recommends having a friend or loved one accompany you to all of your appointments, because you never know when you'll need the extra support.

Here are some of the symptoms and early warning signs of ovarian cancer:

1) Bloating 

2) Pelvic or abdominal pain

3) Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly

4) Having to go to the bathroom more frequently or urgently

For more information about MOCA:

You can donate to MOCA during our phone banks at 5, 6, and 10pm on Monday night!

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