Carolynne Jones was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 48. She came from a heritage that didn’t ask God why bad things happen.
By Chris Slone
“We were born with guilt so it’s all just a matter of time,” Jones said. “But seriously, it was hard to digest those words.”
Jones first reaction was “good night sweetheart, well it’s time to go.” However, one kind word — one glimmer of hope from the doctor — and her thinking changed. Maybe she could live, everybody doesn’t die from this disease.
“In fact, the dying part didn’t scare me as much as the getting there,” Jones said. “I was afraid to be a burden on my family and wither away in front of their eyes. But that didn’t happen.”
Jones had been ill prior to her diagnoses. According to Jones, ovarian cancer has such quiet and misleading symptoms. Jones had been treated from different illnesses, including a trip to Bismarck to asses her for possible lung issues or asthma.
Once those tests came back inconclusive, Jones was given breathing exercises and inhalers to help her increase the shortness of breath she had been experiencing.
In the fall of 2000, Jones began to notice her stomach getting bigger.
“All this time, I really didn’t feel sick, it was that I just didn’t feel good,” Jones said.
Once she returned from a trip with her husband, Jones visited the clinic once again. She thought she was having bowel problems. However, the situation was worse than she realized.
Jones had a tumor in her stomach and was scheduled for surgery.
“Entering the hospital, the day of my surgery was of course scary, but even then, I just didn’t feel like I had cancer,” Jones said.
The surgeon told Jones that her tumor had burst during surgery, but he was confident he collected all of the scrapings he needed to send to Bismarck. Not long after he sent the samples, the results came back.
“But when I got the news it was cancer, I stood before my mirror naked and saw an emaciated woman who no longer had an appetite,” Jones said. “I had never experienced that kind of feeling before. And believe me, not really a very good weight loss plan even though I had extra pounds to shed.”
Having cancer was horrible, but the news became worse. The disease was not contained to her ovaries, it had spread to other places. Jones was going to need an aggressive treatment if she was going to have a chance at beating this disease.
“When I asked Dr. Elder if people live through this kind of cancer, he told me he had one patient,” Jones said. “One patient! I hoped to God that was his only patient, ever. But I knew better.”
At the time of her diagnoses, Jones was told she had stage-3 cancer.
“I didn’t even know there were only 4 stages,” Jones said.
At a follow-up appointment to have the first half of her stitches removed, Jones was asked if she had been having hot spells. She said he hadn’t been because Jones assumed those hot spells were nothing more than panic attacks 18 times a day, along with the sweating during the night.
“It never occurred to me I was in surgical menopause,” Jones said.
When Jones met her oncologist for the first time, he gave her hope. He sat back in his chair, chewed on the bow of his glasses and lectured Jones that she could not go by the statistics for ovarian cancer, which according to Jones, more than 26,000 women will be diagnosed this year and more than half of them will die.
The oncologist told Jones that everyone is different. There are different states of cancer, different ages are a factor, different ethnic groups, different health levels. Everyone was different.
Jones had a safety net during her treatments. She relied on the doctors, nurses, radiology individuals and chemotherapy nurses.
“Walking out of that clinic in Bismarck after six months of treatment was a bitter sweet moment,” Jones said. “I was scared to death.”
Jones said the cards and words of encouragement made a huge difference in her well-being.
“Of course, I had days when I thought if one more person tells me to keep a positive attitude I would just scream and say ‘no, not today. I don’t have the energy today, maybe tomorrow.’”
Jones said there are so many people that stand out along the way who helped her through this process.
“How lucky I was to have my faith, wonderful support, and a great job,” Jones said. “I hope I can somehow make a difference for others diagnosed with this disease we call cancer.”