Joan and Terry Dykstra
MY JOURNEY WITH RUNNING AND OVARIAN CANCER
I was diagnosed with Advanced Stage 3 contained Ovarian Cancer on June 2, 2008 at U of M. I was upset with my doctors for missing it, but soon
realized that I had a part in it also. Had I been informed, I would have been more persistent and a better advocate for myself. I am sure
it would have led to an earlier diagnosis. So, the one thing I wanted to do was make others aware of ovarian cancer and its silent symptoms.
Ovarian cancer doesn’t have specific symptoms of its own. Instead, there are risk factors and a group of symptoms. These symptoms can also
be signs of many other health problems, most of which are not as serious in nature. But, if you are experiencing 2 to 3 of these symptoms
for more than 2 or 3 weeks, you should see a doctor and have some test. There are links in this web site to give you more information and
you will be given pamphlets if you participate in the walk/run so you will have the knowledge I was missing. Ovarian cancer causes more
deaths than any other gynecologic cancer in the U.S., but it accounts for only about 3 percent of all cancers in women. Since 1987, the
number of new cases of ovarian cancer has gone down slightly, but the chance of dying from ovarian cancer has stayed the same. This is why I
tell my story and am grateful to my niece for providing this opportunity to share it through this run!
If you had ever told me I would be running before my 50th birthday, I would have laughed. But at the age of 50, I started working out,
August 2006. My niece invited me to a Disney World run in January 2007, but I could not go. However, I decided I would do it the next year.
With the finding of Jeff Galloway’s book, Running After 40; I decided to try the walk run method in March of 2007. I ran my first 5k in
April and my second ½ Marathon in January 2008 at Disney World with my family. Twenty-two of us participated from 8 months to 80 years old,
from the diaper run to the 5k, ½ marathon, marathon and the Goofy (½ on Sat. and full on Sun); we all participated in some way. Our family
had gone from a few people running to a whopping 22. I did the Flying Pig half-marathon with them at the beginning of May 2008, less than a
month before my diagnosis in June.
The physical strength I had gained from working out and running become a big part of my recovery. I realized God had used running to prepare
me for one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. I did a lot of walking. I did a ½ Marathon in Disneyland on Labor Day weekend with
my family the 2nd weekend after my 4th Chemo. I was very grateful for all the support I had received from my family and friends. I
dedicated the family calendars I make every year to God, my family and friends. On the back cover, under the picture of me giving Mickey
Mouse a high five as I went over the finish line, I wrote the verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13.
It soon became clear to me it should be my life verse. I had signed up for the 5K and the Goofy at Disney World
in 2009 and decided I would
still try to do it. The 5K and the ½ went well. By the 3rd mile of my first marathon, I was out of energy and knew I was in trouble.
I told my husband, sister and brother-in-law I was going to pull myself at the first med. tent for them to go on. My husband decided to stay
with me until the med. tent and then catch up with the others. Shortly after they left, the back of a runner’s t-shirt caught my eye and it
read “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13. It started me thinking, was God telling me he would carry me
through it as He was my battle with cancer. I saw the shirt a few more times and before we reached a med. tent, I decided to trust God no
matter what the outcome. We figured out just how fast I would need to go to finish under 7 hours and not use any more energy than I needed
to. Amazing the four of us finished together with 2 minutes to spare.
I had been having some symptoms during the summer and in the
middle of August 2009, I was set up to have surgery. My cancer
had returned. My doctor was able to remove all the cancer
laparoscopically. I was able to start running after 2 weeks and
able to do the Great-Turtle 5.7 on Mackinac Island after my 2nd
chemo. Don’t get me wrong, it has been far from easy. I am not
telling you this story to make myself look good. Running has
come to mean a lot to me; seeing how God works in my life,
quality time spent with my family, my health. Now it is also a
way to inform others, so they will not have to endure a journey
with ovarian cancer or at least they may have the opportunity to
be diagnosed in an earlier stage. I encourage you to take charge
of your health by exercising and eating healthy. It’s not something you can do overnight. It’s an ongoing
process. You will find it easier if you have support from family or friends, so include them. Also, if you are having health problems go
see your doctor. If your symptoms persist and your doctor does not get them under control, get a second opinion and a third opinion if you
Since my cancer returned under the two year mark my chances of staying in remission after chemo were not good. I participated
in a study conducted by New Horizons GYN Cancer Research Fund. This fund was instituted by the Gynecological Oncology Group (GOG). They were very helpful to my
niece in donating items for Chasing the Cure events and extremely supportive.
I am currently going through another round of chemo and dealing with other health issues related to the return of cancer. However,
I enjoy time with family and I am still fighting every day!
We continue to be excited about all the Chasing the Cure events. I hope you can join us in our endeavor. If not, I hope you will take advantage of donating to the
cause. I invite you to help us chase the cure for Ovarian Cancer paving one mile at a time by promoting Ovarian
Cancer awareness and research. Remember this race is for everyone. There is no time limit and you can walk, walk/run or run!!!
May you be greatly blessed through walking, running or donating to this cause.
- Joan Dykstra
Life verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13
My Peace: Jesus Christ
My Motto: I choose to live, love, learn, laugh, teach and help others
Joan and Terry Dykstra, Fall 2014