New mom from Hudson overcomes ovarian cancer and warns other women about important symptoms

HUDSON, Ohio - In the span of 10 1/2 months, Jennifer Phipps experienced the greatest joy in her life and the scariest news one could imagine.

On Jan. 11, 2012, Jennifer and her husband, Mark, welcomed their son, John, into the world.

By the end of the year, Jennifer was coming to grips with the news that she had stage 3C ovarian cancer, and without the proper treatment, she might die.

"I may not have even seen my son's first birthday," Jennifer said.

The news was delivered by her doctor after ultrasounds revealed fluid in her abdominal and pelvic areas.

"He had a look on his face I won't forget and he said, 'Guys, I got bad news.' He said, 'Jen, it looks like you have ovarian cancer and it has spread.' He said, 'I'm going to pray for you,'' Jennifer recalled.

Even though she was only 37, Jennifer was not completely surprised by the diagnosis.

She had been experiencing fatigue and digestive problems since the late summer. In addition, she had done her own research and knew the fluid -- confirmed by a CT scan-- was not a good sign.

A devout Christian, she turned to her faith.

"We believe that God can heal me and we believe that he may not choose to, but whatever happens, we want to glorify his name," Jennifer said.

Dr. Robert DeBernardo, a gynecologic oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic, reviewed Jennifer's scans and was concerned. Essentially, her entire pelvis was filled with cancer.

"It's a very serious diagnosis. Most women with advanced ovarian cancer don't make five years," DeBernardo said.

Jennifer underwent four abdominal surgeries, including a debulking procedure, which removed all visible signs of cancer.

"They had to strip my diaphragm, my bladder. It was kind of everywhere," Jennifer said.

In addition, she had a total hysterectomy and had her spleen and appendix removed.

She also had seven chemotherapy treatments, including a HIPEC procedure, which delivered heated chemo directly to the abdomen. The aggressive treatment worked.

"I was in remission, I guess kind of technically, before I even finished my IV chemo," Jennifer said.

Two weeks ago, Jennifer went to Hillcrest Hospital and blood work showed she remains cancer-free.

"It is definitely God's grace that I am here. It is a total miracle. It is a miracle that my husband has a wife and my son has a mommy," she said.

Dr. DeBernardo said changes to the bowels, bloating and nausea could be signs of ovarian cancer and women should see their doctors if symptoms persist.

Jennifer said women should be extra concerned if an ultrasound shows fluid in the abdominal area.

"I would definitely go to your doctor and demand a CT scan," she said.

According to the American Cancer Society, a woman's risk of getting invasive ovarian cancer in her lifetime is about 1 in 72. The 2013 estimate for U.S. deaths from the disease is 14,230.

While recently playing with her son on the living room floor of her Hudson home, Jennifer made it clear she won't take life's precious moments for granted.

She lived to celebrate her son's first birthday and is excited to plan his second birthday in January.

"He is definitely part of my prayer that God keep me here."

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