BELOIT, Wis. — It’s the little things in life like taking an evening walk with her husband and two dogs that make Brooke Monyelle feel somewhat back to normal.
“I’ve had to really push myself,” said Monyelle.
Nearly five years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer.
“Small cell carcinoma of the ovary hypercalcemic type (SCCOHT),” said Monyelle. “Very rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer that affects younger women at the average age of 24.”
According to a 2020 study from the National Library of Medicine, less than 500 cases of SCCOHT have been reported in medical literature. Maren Petersen, the director of the Small Cell Ovarian Cancer Foundation, said that number is likely underreported and even more people could have the disease.
Because of the rarity of the cancer, she traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to receive treatment.
“The treatment I did was a six-week drug, chemo six times in the hospital and I had several small surgeries with that, including HIPEC chemo and a second-look surgery and stem cell transplant and the end of the treatment,” said Monyelle.
Moneylle’s doctor originally thought her symptoms were because of appendicitis.
“I started to not feel great,” said Monyelle. “Kind of bloated and tired. So, I went to the doctor and had a CT scan and they found a tumor on my abdomen, on my intestine and looked into it further and realized it was a large tumor on my right ovary that grew into 14 centimeters in two months exactly.”
Ashley Schneider is the executive director of the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance. Schneider said it’s important to look out for signs and symptoms.
“We always say the BEAT,” said Schneider. “It’s an easy way to remember them. Bloating, eating difficulty, abdominal pain and what we refer to as tinkle, tinkle, tinkle. Bladder changes, urgency, things like that.”
She said ovarian cancer can affect one in every 78 women.
“Generally, stages are diagnosed at Stage 3 or 4,” said Schneider. “Most cases are in those advanced stages which, unfortunately, the rate of survival decreases, so it’s important to pay attention to your body, pay attention to those symptoms. If things seem different for you or unusual, we really recommend going to your health care provider.”
Monyelle is now making it her mission to bring awareness to ovarian cancer.
“I feel that I’m meant to be here and spread awareness on ovarian cancer, especially in younger women,” said Monyelle. “Small cell is typically a younger woman’s ovarian cancer. I’ve gotten close with a lot of my friends who haven’t made it sadly.”
She said early detection is key. Monyelle said she will continue sharing her story to help other women at risk of ovarian cancer.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how many cases of SCCOHT have been documented worldwide. This has been corrected. (Oct. 3, 2023)