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!
At approximately 1:45 pm, I got a call from Dr. Kate O’ Hanlan. Her sentence started with the word “Congratulations” and already, I could not believe what I was hearing. The pathology results came and described that by taking out the tumors, all the cancer in my body was removed! At this point, I do not have to endure Chemo or Radiation due to finding the cancer in enough time – while it was just inside the tumors and not killing the cells in my organs.
This news is by far the best news that I could have ever received.
I am so blessed that I only had to live this horrible dream for a short time, but I am aware that I will have to fight this battle my whole entire life. Although there is a chance that this cancer will not come back as a result of the wonders that Dr. O’ Hanlan made happen, I will have screenings to go to every year to make sure this disease stays away!
Right now, my family and I are just so speechless. I am so thankful that this emotional journey had such an amazing outcome. I will continue living life thanking my remaining ovary for staying strong and keeping the ability to give me children. All I can think about now is wishing and praying that all others impacted by cancer of any type, have the marvelous miracles and positive outcomes that I have been so lucky to have. Therefore, it is so important to me to use the money that is made by each of the #RallyforRiley fundraisers to first pay for any medical bills involving my surgery and future screenings, but also to put back into the community to help local cancer fighters!
This last month has impacted my life in more ways than I could have ever imagined. My main goal will always be to spread awareness for this unnoticed cancer. I have read so many stories and hope I can be the inspiration that other women have been to me. I am extremely blessed to have such an outstanding support system and want all my teal sisters to know that I will forever be Rallying behind you too.
This is the first time I can officially say that today, I am an Ovarian Cancer Survivor.
When I started my blog, I never expected to get this much recognition. My goal from the very beginning has been to get my own thoughts out, share updates with close loved ones (so I didn’t need to call or text everyone at once!), and also to spread awareness. Never did I imagine that popular magazines and news articles around the world would share my story, or that I would receive so much support from fundraisers put on by my family and friends. I truly can’t thank you all enough, it really has helped my family since we are going through so much, it leaves me speechless, and I hope this is bringing awareness to this disease for other girls or families out there.
It has been about a week since my surgery and I am still in shock with everything that has happened since that first visit to the doctor… but especially at the miracles Dr. O’Hanlan made happen! I see such a huge difference in my stomach now that all the tumors are removed and although I don’t know the severity of my diagnosis yet, I am feeling so much better. Thank you so much to everyone who commented and left encouraging words. Reading all of your personal stories and battles with cancer has reminded me I’m not alone, that there is hope, and to stay strong even as this journey begins for me.
The fear I have has not gone away, due to so many unanswered questions, but reading and talking to people I can relate to really has helped. Although everyone’s support has made my outlook on this situation so much brighter, I still cannot believe this is my life…
It’s crazy to me to think that three short weeks ago I was living my life just like any other teenage girl and now I am here desperately waiting for results to tell me how bad my CANCER is. It seems so unreal. I remember when I first heard the doctor say the word “Cancer” in the same sentence as my name. My life flashed before my eyes and I did not know what to do next. I realize now that ignoring it and pretending this is all a dream that I will soon wake up from is so much easier than facing the truth, but I understand that I do have to come to terms with this to fight it. Often times I find myself wondering why this had to happen to me and why my family was chosen to go through this, but at the same time I am happy It was me who was chosen to go into this war because I could not bare to see one of my siblings or friends go through all of this. I am staying positive and I am keeping my smile on my face, but it is still so hard to sit here showered with flowers and “Get well soon” cards knowing I am fighting a battle that so many people haven’t been able to win, and that scares me. It feels so good to get all this love, but breaks my heart that cancer is the reason why.
I also can’t even express how difficult it is to have some of the most qualified doctors tell you that they do not know exactly what kind of Ovarian Cancer you have and that they don’t know exactly how to treat it.. but after my surgery on September 26, 2015, I most definitely DO believe in miracles. The fact that these amazing doctors managed to save my uterus and my left ovary by carefully carving off all of the tumors around them, was absolutely astonishing to hear. All of our prayers were answered and I was so shocked.
I believe that there was some special magic in the operating room that day that made my uterus and ovary rescue possible. I believe that all of the incredible love and support from all of you surrounded me on that operating table and made that miracle happen.
Recovering isn’t easy when you don’t know what the future holds. It’s tough to live today while wondering what your body will be able to handle in a couple weeks. I hate not knowing how much cancer is still left in my body and I hate not knowing what treatment will be.
Healing for me, however, is happening through the inspiring stories that you are all sharing. Every message has reminded me that I am not alone in this and hearing the battles of others is my motivation to just keep pushing. The #RallyForRiley team has gotten so much bigger than I could have ever expected, and while I am waiting for answers, I hope everyone will rally with me and hope for more miracles… I will continue to do my best…We are beating this one step at a time!
Wow what a day. We haven’t seen Riley yet but we just got word from her wonderful surgeon Dr. O’Hanlan that she was the sweetest girl in surgery. She said everyone who worked on her absolutely adored her and she is doing FINE! 4 incisions later and bye bye to the appendix…
The doctor sat us all down and said she had good news and bad news. Believe it or not everybody………. the doctor was able to save one of her ovaries and uterus for now! The tumors completely covered it but she was able to carve away the tissue to save it! We all broke down crying – it’s a miracle!
But. We don’t have all of the answers yet…
The bad news is the doctor said both her and the pathologist on site, after studying all of this for so many years, are actually completely baffled by the type of ovarian tumors she has. She said it is so, so rare that they could not determine any answers immediately. Her entire abdomen was infected with small tumors that had spread beyond her ovaries. Surgery went over time as Dr. O’Hanlan was able to safely remove every. single. one. We are happy to report Riley is completely clear of these crazy tumors and all of the fluid in her body! But we aren’t out of the woods yet….
They are sending up cells from each and every tumor for more testing at UCSF and the doctor said we will hear back in two weeks, at best. She cannot yet determine the outlook or possibilities of chemotherapy, or if the tumors will be coming back until they have each been tested. But as of now Riley should be making a speedier recovery than we could have imagined!!!! (She may be coming home tomorrow!!!)
Thank you, thank you all! We really believe it was due to all of your positivity coming her way that created this small miracle (for now!) for Riley.
Oftentimes we associate the idea of
cancer with death…. But I am happy to report our Riley is not going anywhere ANYTIME soon!!!
Dear Riley, I know exactly how you feel. I've experienced the exact same thing a few years ago when I was 17 and I found out about stage 4 cancer in the exact same way as you did. I know I wish I had at the time someone I could relate to, talk to and just get a glimpse of certainty. This is why I want you to know and believe there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that once all this is over, you WILL get to achieve everything you've dreamed about and more - because as I'm sure you'll see after all this is done with and you are well and healthy, this experience will make you stronger than you can ever imagine. everything will be clearer, you'll have 10 times more thrive and strength than anyone else, and you will shine much much brighter.
As women, we grow up preparing ourselves for a certain life, one where we experience pregnancy and birth. When life doesn't work out that way, we need to take time to grieve the loss of that life. However, adoption has brought more joy to my life than I ever could have imagined. I read your post and just wanted to reach out and let you know your gift of love for children is not lost.
We live in Paso and my mom was diagnosed with Stage 1a Ovarian Cancer 2 years ago this February. She had a full hysterectomy and then did chemo for 4 months. She is doing amazingly well now. She found the "What Next" website and message boards to be one of her best resources (besides her amazing medical team at UCLA). It is a hard journey but YOU CAN BEAT THIS! Miracles happen every day! My family and I will be praying for you and yours.
Hey Riley! I am so happy to hear that your surgery went as well as it did. It sounds like you had an amazing team of doctors. I'll spare you the details, but I was also diagnosed with a very rare ovarian cancer when I was just 21 years old. Because of my age, even just getting a doctor to take me seriously was a nightmare and it took them 3 months to diagnose me from the time I first discovered the growth. The scariest part of the whole ordeal was not knowing which organs would remain intact after I awoke from surgery. I was also told that they would most likely be removing both ovaries and possibly my uterus. Luckily, the surgery went beyond anyone's expectations and they only had to remove the one affected ovary. I now have two little boys. :) I am so grateful that you are sharing your story. More young women and DOCTORS need to be aware that yes, even very young women get ovarian cancer. Ladies, YOU must be your biggest advocate. And to anyone wondering, not all ovarian cancers are HPV related. Mine wasn't. So even if you've had an HPV vaccine, it is still possibly to get ovarian cancer. Riley, stay brave kiddo! You're gonna be better than o.k., you're gonna be great. You already are. ;)
Omg,I'm so sorry that you have to deal with this:( I am happy I read your story,I know I'm not able to have kids of my own. I called my family Dr to set up a appointment last week,since I'm having some what of same problem as you, they had me to come in for a pregnancy test, I knew it would be negative,now I get to see my Dr in 4days. For weight gain swelling in the stomach hints pregnancy look& nausea. I gained 30pds in 2months& I use to never be able to gain weight :( I'm so scared now that I read your story,although I'm glad I read it at the Same time. Thanks for sharing your story,your a beautiful girl& I know you will beat this. Praying from Indiana...
I have the same story...different ending. I always had a problem with my weight but when people started asking me when I was due. I got a bit concerned. I started exercising more. Then, my back started to hurt. When I would lay down, I felt like I couldn't breathe. My ribs hurt. So I went to see my primary doctor, got an X-ray. She was worried about what she found. So I was sent to the main hospital for a CT scan. There was a tumor on my right ovary and it was huge. A week later, I met with an oncologist. Then two weeks after that, I had surgery for removal. My tumor was 13-14 pounds. I was stage 1. I only lost an ovary. I am so sorry to hear you had a hysterectomy. I understand the fear and I can't imagine actually going through it. There is this great organization called Stupid Cancer. Idk if you heard of it. It helps provide resources for young cancer survivors. It helped me so much. I felt so alone. I was 23 and going through what no one else could understand. I hope you look it up and it helps you too. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I am friends with your Dad and aunt Lindi I just read your story and it broke my heart and touched me all at the same time ...family is amazing and you have an amazing one !!!! They are all sweet, kind, loving and that is one of the biggest keys to recovery !!! And God is the biggest...so already you have it all
You just described late stage Appendix Cancer that is constantly misdiagnosed for ovarion and colon cancers. Just taking it out is not curative it is pallative in nature. What were the results of the biopsy? Mucinous based correct? In one of the few versions of this cancer is called DPAM...radiation and systemic chemo will not work on it because it grows to slowly....This can only be helped if you have a Hot Chemo Wash (HIPEC) inside of the abdomen to kill unseen cells. If that did not happen then the seeding has most likely begun again and the next operation won't go so smooth. Please send your results to Dr. Paul Sugarbaker in DC at the WHC cancer department he is in charge of. He is the one who pioneered the discovery of this type of cancer and it treatments. Also send them to Johns Hopkins, they helped come up with the chemo applications and what can extend your life for some years. They also created a way to identify the biology of the biopsy to tell if it was this rare type of cancer and not ovarian or colon. My dear, there is no cure and no one has ever been cured of Appendix Cancer. If you have it then your only chance at living any length of time is getting to one of these specialists called a 'Surgical Oncologist' that Specializes in Appendiceal Cancers. Normal cancer surgeons have no clue about this rare little monster because it looks so much like colon or ovarian....only one of them will be able to spot cancer on a ct image that has a mucinous makeup...I am no longer operable because of this disease (8 major abdominal operations and lost all funny named organs, yet it is still going to take my life. Please look into your sickness deeper, you may not have been diagnosed correctly.
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at first as well. However during surgery the dr saw my appendix and mucin in my abdomen and it was diagnosed as APPENDIX cancer. Appendix cancer ia rare and even some doctors have never heard of it! IT IS FREQUENTLY MISDIAGNOSED AS OVARIAN CANCER. Please, please, please make sure that the diagnosis is correct. If it is appendix cancer you absolutely NEED to find a specialist. There are many of us on FB that can help you to find one if needed. God bless and good luck. I am available for questions if you want to talk. Deb
Riley you can beat this but i suspect that it may not be ovarian cancer. This sounds extremely similar to how my cancer was found earlier this year. It sounds like appendix cancer, pseudomyxoma peritonei to be more specific. Please feel free to find me on Facebook. Many prayers sweet girl.
Riley and family, and other women who have experienced similar problems with ovaries please consider consulting with an appendix cancer expert! Appendix cancer can be mistaken for ovarian cancer (and often is): when appendix cells turn into a cancerous type they can push through the appendix and spew throughout the abdomen (picture blowing on a dandelion and seeds blowing all over). Those cells are known to move to women's ovaries, making the ovaries swell and appear superficially as if ovarian cancer is present. The appendix cancer cells spread throughout the abdomen and grow new tumors. The tumors are often "mucinous", producing gelatinous ascites (mucin) which accumulates in the abdomen making the woman look pregnant. That condition is called "pseudomyxoma peritonei". For patients with pseudomyxoma peritonei the tumors often appear "low-grade", which is called "histologically benign" by pathologists. But don't let the word "benign" fool you, that just means the cells are not rapidly dividing or look super-cancerous. The cells don't belong in the abdomen, and are not at all harmless. More can be learned about appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonei here: pmpcure.org Although appendix cancer is rare, it is likely much more prevalent in the population than we realize because doctor's fail to recognize it when it is present. Women are mis-diagnosed as having ovarian cancer; often the ovary to the right is the one most affected because that ovary is close to the appendix. The closest specialist to you is Dr. Lowy at UCSD -- http://doctors.ucsd.edu/Details/12065 My husband's appendix cancer was caught when he was age 41, but he actually had it for 5 to 10 years. He was treated by a specialist and is doing very well. Going to an appendix cancer specialist is a must because if it is appendix cancer it needs to be treated differently than ovarian (and any other type of cancer) owing to unique properties of the appendix cancer cells. Best wishes for quick recovery from surgery and successful treatment.
Riley and family, please consider consulting with an appendix cancer expert: the closest specialist to you is Dr. Lowy at UCSD -- http://doctors.ucsd.edu/Details/12065 The reason why I bring up appendix cancer is because appendix cells can change to a cancerous type, push through the appendix, and then the cells spread throughout the abdomen seeding new tumors (picture a dandelion setting seed). Those cells are known to move to women's ovaries, making them swell and appear superficially as if ovarian cancer is present. The appendix cancer cells spread throughout the abdomen and grow new tumors. There are many sub-types of appendix cancer, even ones that are called "histologically benign" which means the cells don't look like they are rapidly dividing. But, benign does not mean harmless, those cells have no place in the abdomen. My husband's appendix cancer was caught when he was age 41, but he actually had it for 5 to 10 years. He was treated by a specialist and is doing very well. Going to an appendix cancer specialist is a must because if it is appendix cancer it needs to be treated differently than ovarian (and any other type of cancer) owing to unique properties of the appendix cancer cells. Best wishes for quick recovery from surgery and successful treatment.
I love you Riley
Hi Riley, I was watching cheerleaders and they said that they were wearing teal for a day to support you. I love the colour teal. It is my fav ever! I am actually from australia. I wish you all the best!!!!!! You are in my thoughts and prayers!
Hi, Riley - I wanted to leave you a note to let you know I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer when I was 15 (dysgerminoma) and was treated with surgery and chemotherapy. They were able to leave one ovary and my uterus intact -- I'm guessing by your update that is also the case for you? The most important thing I wanted you to know is that was 25 years ago and I have two daughters who are now 9 and 5. I'm happy to share my experience with you if you think it will be helpful. You can find me on my blog, SlightlyOvercaffeinated.com I wish you the best!
Mary Lou Mallon I did the walk for breast cancer in Boston Making strides in Oct I hope they find a cure
Glad to get the good news! Congratulations, Riley! I've been praying for you. I'm so happy to hear that your future is looking bright and your life has been changed positively. Suuuuper excited for you!!!
Many of my friends are touched deeply by your story, however they are hesitant to donate to your cause because it isn't clear why you need so much money. People are used to Go Fund Me & usually there is a very specific reason for the fund raising - why the money is needed and specifically what it is being used for. Although I didn't hesitate to donate to your cause, many others told me they didn't because they don't understand why you need so much money when your health insurance shouled cover most of these costs. Perhaps you could raise more money if you provide specifics. Just trying to help...
Hi Riley, I wish you all the best. Get well and come back on a horse! Greetings from the Netherlands :) !