Like so many others she had no symptoms, which is very concerning about this type of cancer. Charlene’s first symptom was actually brought to her attention by her cat one evening, which jumped on her bed and walked across her stomach causing pain.
Following surgery and recovery, this brave woman underwent grueling chemotherapy and continued to remain positive and smile. Charlene went into remission, but it only lasted six months. In September 2007, Charlene’s abdomen was enlarging and she knew deep down inside that the cancer was back. Yes, it had returned…and it took a strong hold on my friend. This special lady once again endured the rigors of chemotherapy and the awful side effects.
After being referred to Mayo Clinic, Charlene underwent five weeks of experimental treatment yet the tumor was still growing. At this point, she was told that surgery for removal of the tumor was no longer an option. It was heartbreaking. So Charlene went back home to Minneapolis and chose to continue chemotherapy treatment under the care of her oncologist. A few months later, Charlene had to face surgery for an infected hernia. After all of this she bravely faced more chemotherapy, only to learn that the tumor was growing at a rapid pace and resisting all treatments. This news was extremely disheartening for Charlene, who was always very optimistic and wanted so badly to beat it.
In March 2008 Charlene decided, with the support of her family, to discontinue further treatments. She just wanted to go home and live out the rest of her days with her loving family by her side. She once said to me that after making that difficult decision there was“a calmness” inside her…a peace. No more chemo, no more tests, no more days spent laying in a hospital bed and wondering what’s going to happen next. She knew exactly what she wanted and that was to spend as much time as possible with her loved ones. Over the past five weeks, I was fortunate to visit Charlene in her home several times. What I witnessed was a very loving, peaceful environment created by Charlene and her wonderful family. She got to spend quality time with her husband and children….truly priceless.
One day while visiting Charlene, I told her about my dream, which was to start a foundation in her honor. (I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and my goal is to do something about this terrible cancer for the rest of my life.) Charlene sat up and got the biggest smile on her face! We cried and decided to get right to work on our mission! There were so many decisions to make and I wanted Charlene’s input. She had many great ideas and wishes. Thank you, Charlene, for your guidance! With the help of her loving family, we named the foundation “CHARLENE’S Light …a foundation for ovarian cancer.” We also discussed the focus and what Charlene envisioned. It was all so very helpful!
Charlene passed away peacefully on April 12, 2008. I must say that my friend was a very brave, giving, caring, friendly and compassionate person. She taught us all so much through her shining example of strength. Charlene always said her greatest joy was being a mother…and her legacy lives on through her three beautiful children. Charlene’s light shines brightly and her spirit lives on forever!