Amy Hiner of Ocean View knows very well how subtle the attack of ovarian cancer can be on a woman’s body — so subtle that it often goes undiagnosed until late stages.
Hiner, 72, is about to enter her third year of her fight against the disease, with which she was diagnosed in November 2013. She had experienced some symptoms late that summer, including menstrual-type pain and an enlargement in her groin, but her doctor advised her to wait three months to see if it resolved itself. By November, she noticed her clothes weren’t fitting because her waist had become thicker. She found it impossible to eat or drink “more than a teaspoon.” So she went back to her doctor.
A CAT scan at that point revealed news that Hiner said felt “like the world was pulled out from under me.” Stage 4 ovarian cancer. Within a week, she said, “I was well under way” on a journey that has included several rounds of chemotherapy, a hysterectomy and a removal of a large section of her colon, resulting in a colostomy.
Back in chemotherapy again now, she finds herself at the center of a local effort to increase awareness of ovarian cancer. The latest piece of that effort involves “going teal” — teal being the official color of ovarian cancer awareness — by placing colored ribbons on mailboxes in support of those fighting the disease.
The effort started when Hiner’s daughter, Laura Jednarski, made a ribbon for Hiner’s mailbox. The project picked up steam when friends in Hiner’s ladies’ circle at Ocean View Presbyterian Church distributed teal ribbons during Sunday worship.
Hiner said she feels incredibly fortunate to have great support from family and friends as she continues her battle with ovarian cancer.
“My husband is 110 percent behind me,” she said. “When I go for chemo, he sits with me for hours,” in addition to helping her meet the medical needs stemming from her colostomy. Daughter Laura has walked in a fundraising walk for ovarian cancer in Annapolis, and the family has participated in the Wings of Hope event.
“I’m very blessed to have such a supportive, wonderful family,” Hiner said.
She also gave high marks to Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center.
“I cannot say enough good things about the Tunnell Cancer Center,” she said.
Although she faces chemotherapy “for the rest of my life,” Hiner vowed to keep talking to people about ovarian cancer in an effort to raise awareness. In the interest of giving family members more knowledge, she has had genetic testing done to find out if she is genetically predisposed to the disease. The results showed that she is not, which she said did not surprise her, because no one in her family that she is aware of has ever had it.
Although she will probably never know for sure what caused her cancer, she said she blames a hormone cream that she used during menopause, for which ovarian cancer is one of the potential side effects. Hiner said doctors have told her the disease had been in her body “for years and years” before it was finally diagnosed.
Hiner said that as long as she is able, she will continue to talk to others about ovarian cancer. The single most important thing she wants to impart is this: “Don’t ignore subtle symptoms,” which can include things that can easily be put off as “probably nothing,” such as backaches, cramps and bloating, bowel changes and extreme tiredness.
She also urged women to make their doctors listen to them when they feel something is not right.
“I have a daughter, and I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said. “I do swear to be an advocate for early detection.”