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4-year cancer survivor shares her story during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Four year survivor shares story during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
Four year survivor shares story during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month 02:30

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Ovarian cancer is called the silent killer because it's hard to diagnose and treat, but that's slowly changing.

"This garden is my happy place It feeds my heart and my soul," Elena Costello said. 


Costello takes healing in her Ardmore garden seriously, now being a four-year survivor of advanced ovarian cancer.

"I went around for seven months trying to find out what was wrong with me," Costello said. "My symptoms were discomfort and distention in my stomach."

Who would ever think that's ovarian cancer? Nobody.

"It wasn't a strong thing, I mean it wasn't something that said 'oh my God.' It was really just unrecognizable," she said. 

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include abdominal or pelvic pain, bloating, trouble eating or feeling full quickly and urgent or frequent need to urinate.


It's hard to diagnose and there's no screening, which is why it's called the silent killer.

"It is tremendously frustrating," Dr. David O. Holtz of Maine Line Health said.

Holtz, who's Costello's doctor says treatment options are also limited, but there is a new FDA drug for recurrent ovarian cancer called Elahere.

"Having this as a brand new avenue of treatment is very exciting," Holtz said. "The five-year survival for patients with advanced ovarian cancer has greatly improved over the last 20 years."

Costello lost her hair on the last rounds of chemo.  


"The hair was just growing back, and I was happy to take the wig off," she said.

Now feeling some much needed relief to have a new treatment option.

"I'm very encouraged about it and my CA 125 has gone down, which is fabulous," Costello said.

In addition to her garden, she says she gets a lot of comfort from a Sandy Rollman Foundation support group.


"Nobody knows what it's like except somebody that has it," she said.

Now at age 80, she feels lucky to still be enjoying life and her family.

"So far, everything, I feel is OK. I'm doing OK and I'm very hopeful about it," Costello said.

In honor of this month, the Sandy Rollman Foundation is hosting an Ovarian Cancer Awareness night at the Philadelphia Phillies next Friday.

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