Hi, my name is Riley Benado. I'm 18 years old, and I have cancer, but there's more to the story than that.
I'm a recent graduate from Paso Robles High School, and during my time in high school, I was able to fulfill one of my biggest dreams as a varsity cheerleading captain. I've cheered since I was 5 years old, and I continue to share that love while coaching the girls of the Paso Robles Youth Cheer Program. During my free time I love wakeboarding, taking pictures, writing poetry, and listening to my favorite singer, Taylor Swift.
My most favorite thing in the world is my family. I come from a very large but extremely close family who is understanding, crazy, and unconditionally supportive. As the third child out of four, I have had the most wonderful older sister and brother to look up to and the greatest little brother to set an example for. Not only is my family wonderful but so are my friends and loving, dedicated, supportive boyfriend. I love to spend time with them, go to the fair, explore the beach and help them out whenever they need me. With my amazing family, wonderful friends, and life full of passions, I never imagined that my life would look the way it does right now...
On Monday September 14, 2015 I went to the gynecologist for a check up because I was experiencing severe bloating and pain in my pelvis. It looked like my stomach was 5 months pregnant. The doctors gave me a pregnancy test, and of course it was negative -- I'm experiencing all of this, yet I'm still a virgin.
Next, they decided it was best to do an ultrasound to see if anything would appear abnormal in my stomach. During this, they found extra fluid in my stomach, but it was difficult to see my organs well enough to notice if anything was wrong. On Thursday September 17, 2015, doctors performed a CAT scan to better see my ovaries and my appendix. The doctors called me back first thing Friday morning as soon as they received the results. I went back to my gynecologist as soon as they called, and she told me there was a 98% chance that I would be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer...
She explained I have an 11 by 13 centimeter mass on "one" ovary (so large it affected both sides), extra fluid in my stomach, and enlarged lymph nodes -- all indications of Ovarian Cancer. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. A few days later, my blood was sent to the lab to do some testing before I was called by an OB/GYN Oncology specialist in the Stanford area. Her name is Dr. O'Hanlan.
On September 23rd, I was officially diagnosed with stage 3 Ovarian cancer.
I am scheduled for surgery for September 26th. During the surgery, the mass, any and all infected organs, my ovaries, eggs, and my uterus will be removed. She will perform a full hysterectomy.
At this age, removal of these parts of my body is not only scary, but it's heartbreaking. I have always dreamed of having my own children and raising a family. I love kids so much, so to know I will never have a child with my own genes and my own characteristics breaks me down.
During this extremely hard time I am appreciating every second of the love and support I receive from friends, family, and my community. It makes me happy to see the #RallyForRiley posts on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter.
Never did I think that at only 18 years old I would be battling such a brutal disease. Because this is so rare for someone at such a young age, I hope that others can become aware of Ovarian Cancer after reading about my story:
This is How Teal Became my Favorite Color .
I hope my journey inspires others and helps anyone going through similar challenges to understand that they, too, can overcome a difficult battle. Thank you for your love, support, encouragement, and contribution to this fight. Together, I believe we can beat this!