Carrie Ryan with husband Jeff and sons Elias and Keegan
The day our son was born was one of the most joyous yet terrifying days of my life. Not only was it necessary to deliver our son via C-section two months early, but just hours before his birth, I learned there was a high probability I had ovarian cancer.
I truly believe Dr. Elizabeth Nye, an OB-GYN at Rush, saved my life. Performing an emergency consult, she listened and asked questions about my pregnancy. Her instincts told her the symptoms i described to her — extreme constipation, intense abdominal and back pain, feeling full after drinking a glass of water — were not what I dismissed as having a difficult pregnancy.
She was correct. Two large tumors had been found in my ovaries. Dr. Summer Dewdney, a Rush gynecologic oncologist, immediately stepped in with a plan. Once our son was safely delivered, I would stay in surgery and the tumors — and if necessary any other cancerous organs and tissue — would be removed; eliminating the need to undergo a separate surgery.
'Caring for my entire well-being'
My fears were confirmed three days later when I was officially diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer. The grim statistics for survival kept circling in my head. But I was determined to beat the odds. I had a three-day-old baby in the NICU fighting for his life and a toddler at home that needed me.
Dr. Dewdney, having already performed my surgery, continued to provide my care through my chemotherapy treatments. Having one doctor handle my surgery and chemotherapy was extremely beneficial. I built a relationship with her and the team she put together to support me on my journey. The Rush University Cancer Center was not just treating my cancer; they were caring for my entire well-being. There are more facets to treatment and recovery than just your immediate cancer treatment. They provide support in ways you don’t even know you need.
Almost immediately after my diagnosis, a Rush psychotherapist, Dr. Lauren Rynar, began helping my husband and me cope with this devastating diagnosis. The combination of a new baby, a toddler, and my diagnosis could have been paralyzing without Dr. Rynar. She walked with me through my entire treatment.
Another immediate concern I had was trying to explain my illness to our 4-year-old son. I had no idea how to talk with him about cancer and particularly how to explain why I would soon be losing my hair. Rush again stepped in with support I didn’t know I needed. A child psychologist contacted me and helped us craft an age-appropriate conversation with our son. She provided resources we could use to help him understand without raising his fear.
I knew I was surrounded with not just a renowned medical team but an incredible support team of caring competent nurses and staff, including a nutritionist to help me fuel my body with the strength it needed, oncology nurses who immediately jumped into action when I experienced an allergic reaction to my chemotherapy. I am also grateful Rush provides integrative therapies. My work with Angela Lorbeck helped me manage my chemotherapy side effects through acupuncture, reducing my nausea, keeping me grounded, and improving my energy.
The Rush University Cancer Center provides access to so many incredible resources to help through diagnosis, treatment and management not just of the disease, but of the entire well-being of yourself and your family. I am grateful to the many who rallied alongside me and who continue to help me be a survivor and chase after my two healthy, rambunctious sons.