Take the next few moments and imagine that today is your sixteenth birthday. You’re waiting, wondering, and worrying until finally a doctor walks into your room. The doctor looks both you and your mother and, just like that, diagnoses you with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
That’s what happened to Colorado native Peyton Linafelter at just sixteen years of age, making her one of the youngest Americans ever diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. Long story short, she survived. Don’t worry, we’ll get into her journey below. And know that we don’t mean to take from her agonizing battle.
The beauty of Peyton’s story, however, lies not in her cancer treatment but what she has chosen to do with her survival story.
Peyton Linafelter & Her Battle with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer
Peyton’s battle with ovarian cancer began in December 2015 while she was on vacation in Barbados. She had just learned to drive had an agent scout her out at a Taylor Swift concert to be a model. But as we know all too well, cancer doesn’t care where you are in life when it decides to show up.
In her cancer’s early stages, Peyton could not keep anything down. Her stomach seemed to be permanently bloated but she simply attributed it eating too many carbs. Like so many people who dismiss subtle symptoms, Peyton didn’t think much of it. But for weeks, her stomach kept expanding. By the time April rolled around, her stomach looked five months pregnant and she had severe lower back and abdominal pain.
Initially, doctors had told Peyton that she had ovarian cysts. After nearly fainting in the shower, though, she went back to the hospital and received her official cancer diagnosis.
Stage 4 ovarian cancer that had spread to her lungs and abdomen.
By May, her treatment to fight the disease began which included chemo for a couple of rounds, surgery to remove the cancer, then chemo to finish. Once that was over and done with, doctors declared she was cancer-free by December 2016. It’s been an incredible uphill battle for Peyton but she’s settling nicely into her new normal.
“It’s definitely the normal I’m going to be seeing more often. But I’m hanging out with friends, I’m out and doing this. I’m working out a lot so I can have a better body than ever before.”
Upon hearing Peyton’s story, she and her mom collaborated with UCHealth on a commercial promoting cancer awareness which aired in Colorado during the 89th Academy awards.
Peyton’s Plan for The Future
She also intends to use her journey not only to change modeling stereotypes, but to empower women regardless of age.
“Go to your doctor for anything and if you think anything is wrong,” urged Peyton. “Even if you think it’s something very simple, there could be long term effects. Look after your health and don’t just push it aside.”
Peyton Linafelter may be young but her words are wise. We can all benefit from her caring words.
Ovarian Cancer Facts
Ovaries are the two reproductive glands that produce eggs and the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. But ovarian cancer starts when abnormal cells inside the ovary overmultiply and turn into a tumor.
Right now, women have a 1 in 75 chance of getting ovarian cancer and a 1 in 100 chance of dying because of it during their lifetime.
In 2017, doctors will diagnose more than 22,000 women with various stages (I to IV) of ovarian cancer. It will kill about 14,000 of those women.
Ovarian cancer develops mainly in women, half of whom are at least sixty-three years-old. Research has also found ovarian cancer to be most prominent in white women.
While women tend to dismiss the vague symptoms and early warning signs, thankfully, the rate of diagnosis has slowly but steadily declined over the last two decades.[2,3]
Could You Be at Risk of Ovarian Cancer?
You can never know for sure whether you will get ovarian cancer at some point in your life, but these are factors that may increase your risk:
Being middle-aged or older
Having close members on either side of the family with a history of ovarian cancer (or other types, e.g., breast, uterine, or colorectal)
Having an Eastern European Jewish background
Past trouble getting pregnant or never having given birth
Having endometriosis (when tissue from the uterine lining grows elsewhere in the body)
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms
These ovarian cancer symptoms are easy to dismiss because they’re similar to the symptoms of other common illnesses. Your most powerful weapon is awareness. Pay attention to your body and recognize what is normal for you. If you notice any irregularities in comparison to the symptoms below, seek your doctor’s advice right away.[4,5]
Vaginal bleeding (especially if you are past menopause) or discharge from your vagina
Pain or pressure in the pelvic or abdominal area
Getting full easily or not being able to keep food down
Different bathroom habits (e.g., frequent or urgent need to urinate and constipation)
Others include: fatigue, indigestion, heartburn, or painful intercourse
Cancer Resources for Women
The American Cancer Society put together this informative free online booklet on cancers that most affect women. The booklet covers who can get it, when you can get it, and tests you can use to find it.
The Foundation for Women’s Cancer has also compiled an in-depth online library of free resources for you. They include links for advocacy and support, information and education, personal care products, and professional societies.
Trying to understand and navigate cancer care without falling under incredible stress seems impossible. So, Cancer.Net has provided the financial resources you need to help get better. It covers medication and treatment costs, travel assistance, housing assistance, and local or national service organizations.