Lynn Lentscher was diagnosed in 1998 with Stage 3 ovarian cancer at the age of 53. She was given less than a 60 percent chance to survive. But, Lentscher wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet, and from personal experiences has drawn the courage and information needed to inform women of a cancer that’s been dubbed the disease that whispers.
Ovarian cancer is one unlike any other, she said. The symptoms mask themselves as typical mutterings associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle or even pregnancy. The symptoms range so much so that during Lentscher’s five years of speaking engagements, she never found two women who experienced the same symptoms.
“Ovarian cancer was initially called the silent killer, but it was then they switched it to the disease that whispers. There are symptoms, but they are so vague,” she said. “The symptoms will often match what we experience when we are pregnant or are going through our period. If it were a man’s disease, it would be a disease that screams, because a man isn’t used to all of the issues we grow accustomed to.”
When Lentscher was diagnosed, she was healthy. She exercised regularly, watched what she ate and took pride in taking care of herself. For about six months, she said, she experienced persistent gas that caused her to burp. And while it was uncomfortable, she didn’t think twice about it.
She went in for a yearly exam and her doctor found a small cyst on her ovary. Given that Lenstcher had no family history of cancer, her doctor told her not to worry. Then he performed a blood test, which is used to detect CA-125 protein in the blood. According to cancer.org most women with ovarian cancer have a higher amount of CA-125 in their blood. Lentscher’s was only slightly elevated.
“We went through a lot of tests and couldn’t reach a conclusion, so we decided that we needed to proceed with surgery,” she said. “When I came out of surgery he told me that I had stage 3 ovarian cancer that had spread to my abdominal wall and into my intestines.”
Lentscher handled the news well.
“I was still in the hospital,” she said. “Everyone scratched their heads for a few days, and I was pretty much prepared for anything by that time. My doctor was very aggressive, looked at me and said, ‘This is what you have,’ waited about three seconds and said, ‘This is how we are going to treat it.’”
Lentscher did six months of chemotherapy and had another surgery, followed by three more rounds of chemotherapies and a month of radiation. She completed her treatment within one year, almost to the day.
“There were a couple chemo’s I had that were pretty awful,” she said. “However, I had a lot of prayer warriors working for me but my main prayer – aside from survival – was to be shown my mission, which led to the foundation we have.”
Be the Difference Foundation was formed by Lentscher and three other ovarian cancer survivors. The organization’s mission is to help women increase their chance of survival by raising awareness and money to fund programs for women fighting ovarian cancer as well as funds for research.
“Our tagline is raising hope, targeting ovarian cancer and our mission is to help women increase their chance of survival,” Lentscher said.
The organization was formed in August 2012, and since then has held more than 300 fundraisers and has donated more than $300,000 to the Clearity Foundation and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Wheel to Survive, an indoor cycling fundraiser, is one of the organizations top events and is currently held in Dallas, Austin, San Diego and San Francisco.
As the organization and its mission takes flight, Lentscher will continue to be a voice for women everywhere to help end the battle with ovarian cancer. She said others can help with that mission by donating to their foundation, volunteering their time or by spreading the word about ovarian cancer. For information, visit bethedifference.org.