Today we sit down with Woodlands local, Haley Houston Odlozil. At the young age of 23, Haley was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but never let it hold her back. Keep reading to hear Haley’s story, recovery and journey with ovarian cancer.
23 is so young to be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. That said though, were you tested for the BRCA gene? Do you have it?
I was incredibly young to be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. It was the absolute last thing on my mind when I went to the doctor complaining of pain; by the time I was diagnosed the cancer had spread so much that it was very complex and complicated to treat. My grandmother passed away from Ovarian Cancer 6 months before I was diagnosed. When I was first diagnosed with the severity of my situation doctors thought I for sure was BRCA positive. It turns out I was negative for the BRCA gene.
We know chemo wasn’t working for you so you sought out a specialist in NYC that changed your prognosis. What, specifically, did that specialist do in NYC recommend that worked?
When you do 12 weeks of straight pumping poison into your body, you end up with ALOT of weird residual side effects. When the chemo didn’t work and I was deemed “inoperable” I ran out of options. My oncologist with Texas Oncology and another oncologist she worked closely with came up with the idea to send me to what they called a “legend” in New York and Memorial Sloan Kettering. Something he thought he could do would be to “TRY” to operate. He said that he didn’t know what the outcome would be but he knew that he had to try. I was too young to just be tossed to the side. He felt with my age..I could endure the long procedure and wanted to give it a shot to try and remove as much cancer as possible. Chemo is meant to push your body as close to the edge as possible in order to kill the cancer cells in there, without killing YOU!! It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that my only option after this poison was surgery…but in the end..with 33 items removed, and as colon resection; I ended up with a chance at life because of Dr. Chi.
Is that doctor now your primary oncologist? If not, who is and how often do you go in for CA 125s and general check ins?
My oncologist is Dr. Christine Lee. She is a phenomenal doctor and fought for me the entire time during my battle. She made sure I had the best surgeon operate on me even if it meant sending me to New York. (which it did) I still go see Dr. Chi in New York yearly and will be seeing him in October. I have regular CT scans, Chest x-rays, and labs drawn every 3 months with Dr. Lee.
During your darkest, sickest days, what did you turn to for inspiration, a laugh, or a break in the weight of your situation? A show? A song? A family member? Anything?
During my darkest days I kept thinking to myself that if I was going to go out…I would go out fighting. I have an incredible support system with my family, my husband and my best friend. My husband kept putting things in perspective for me making sure I took chemo, and recovery from surgery one day at a time…I would always watch the show The Office with my husband for a good laugh and first and foremost we got closer to GOD. My husband and I ended up becoming close with our Church pastors Chris and Kerry Shook and ended up getting re-baptised together this summer.
If you had a megaphone that spoke worldwide to girls your age, what would you tell them about ovarian cancer? Or just their health in general?
I would SHOUT OUT TO THE WORLD that you know your body better than anyone else does! Fight for yourself when others won’t and never give up fighting. Do me a favor and start doing that today. Use the able body you’ve got to fight because one day you may not have that option. I would give anything to have that choice, to have that option.
What are you up to these days?
I am currently trying to get my strength back and try to live life as comfortably with my husband. I have been going back to my job taking on more and more responsibilities. We are trying to grow our family through the help of an egg donor and surrogacy. The truth is that once you have gone through Cancer you will never be the same. Ovarian Cancer is the type of disease you constantly have to fight your entire life! I WILL spend the rest of my life fighting this awful disease and RAISING AWARENESS. I want to be an advocate for women and for girls my age that aren’t taken seriously. I want to help them find their voice.