My name is Courtney Ogg-Mancuso, the only daughter of the late Ivy Nesson Ogg.
She always told me and my younger brother, Matthew, to speak up and share how we felt. This site is a testament to her very spirit and to the beautiful things she passed on to us all. Her generosity was overwhelming. She was the truest friend I ever had. The creation of this site has brought great comfort to me, as I know that we are carrying out her wishes to share information and provide support to others.
My story, the daughter. I struggle to wrap words around such an intense family experience like losing a mother to ovarian cancer? I've been working so hard to try and create something useful out of my family's pain, Ivy's Place, that I have been, in a sense, hiding. I haven't been able to stand looking inward long enough, or hard enough, to confront the dull pain that sits there. Losing my mother was an incredibly sad and painful journey. The diagnosis, the emotional chaos, watching her be sick, watching her battle on a daily basis. Watching her lose. Facing it together as a family. So many questions. So many emotions. Everything so fast.
My mother died in 1997, a little more than one year after her initial diagnosis. Ovarian Cancer is called the silent killer because of the way doctors and women explain away the symptoms as vague. A little bloating, my mother had rationalized away as a recent change in her diet. The fatigue and lower back pain, simply a symptom of aging. Not until she began to bleed from her belly button, the umbilicus, did we know something was definitely wrong. With that the doctor's where able to determine that it was an ovarian cyst that had grown so large it was pushing against the umbilicus, which caused the bleeding. In a way it was a godsend as it was the definitive red flag. It wasn't silent anymore. We were told the ovarian cancer was in stage IV-C and had metastasized (traveled though the body via the blood stream). And so began a very different path for us. Mothers are supposed to live to see their grandchildren. Mothers are supposed to see their sons graduate from college. The gravity of what was happening all around us was setting in. My mother and I felt there was a lack of resources. We are talkers. Where were the other daughters who had experienced this? Where were the sons and husbands who had to go through this similar pain? We had wanted to hear their voices, their stories. If not for the wisdom they could impart but also for the solidarity. To know there are others that understand, that can relate, is a great comfort at a time of great chaos. Our search turned into the final project we would do together, The Ivy Fund. To this day I continue to be the worker bee and she continues to inspire me from above. She taught me how to love, how to communicate, how to care for others. I use each of those tools everyday. That is something the ovarian cancer couldn't take away.
I have been called my mother's heir apparent, a huge compliment. We are similar in many ways, our hands, our skin, and our expressions. Does this mean we have similar ovaries? My mother insisted I see her gynecological oncologist so this question could be addressed. He told me "not to worry about it, we will see you when you are 40." A casual brush off of the disease that was ripping my mother from our family. I went to see my own gynecologist, informed her of my new family history and was met with nervous panic. I was told to have CA-125 BLOOD TESTS every two months. Two very different and opposing opinions. In addition to feeling alone and helpless I was now feeling confused. I'm still confused. Heredity and ovarian cancer leave much gray area. I am at an elevated risk for ovarian cancer. I have to pay attention. It is unthinkable to ignore the lesson my mother's late diagnosis is trying to teach. I don't want to face it. I have to. I don't want to believe that I too could have to leave my family prematurely. I want to see my daughter's children. I want to see my son graduate from college. I can't look away any more. I have to face this ovarian cancer. I have to outsmart it. I have to help others navigate these same waters. I'm on offense now.
Time above all other things has helped to heal me. I was so angry at the doctors. They seemed inept, unknowing, and cold. Didn't they know this person they were treating was the most special person in the world. I was so angry at the medicine that didn't cure her. Why in this technology rich era is there not an early detection test? I felt such anger at the fact that I had no control. This was happening and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I have come to learn that there are things you can do to stop ovarian cancer. You can make people aware of its presence. You can educate doctors. You can educate yourself. Ovarian cancer has taken from me a most precious treasure. In response I have committed to fighting back against it. I do so in the name of my mother, Ivy, a beautiful example of a woman. I do so in the name of all women.
Stories from Ivy and her family