Imagine you are 21 years old, have just had your first baby, and realize that you have ovarian cancer. After a stem cell transplant and three years of treatment, survivor Stephanie Wetzstein is putting a FACE on Ovarian Cancer. She is a realtor by trade, but has devoted her life to Ovarian Cancer Awareness.
What do you do for a living?
I am a realtor with Keller Williams Louisville East.
You are also a spokesperson for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. Tell us about your personal experience with this:
I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 21. It was three months after my son Aydyn was born in 2003. It was very early stage and, at the time, only surgery was necessary. Less than a year after the original surgery, the cancer returned in my lymph system. When chemotherapy and radiation failed to stop the cancer from spreading, I went to M.D Anderson in Houston Texas for a stem-cell transplant recommended by my gynecologic oncologist here in Louisville.
The day before I left, a friend talked me into doing a photo shoot. At the time, I thought “this is the last thing I want to be reminded of when I make it through this.” Looking back, I cherish those pictures as they remind me of how far I have come, and why I am here on this earth.
On July 21st, 2006, after being separated from my two-year old son for over a month, I received my new stem cells and another chance at life.
What is O.A.K.?
Along the way of my fight, I found a local support and advocacy group Ovarian Awareness of Kentucky (O.A.K). They became a second family to me during this time and I quickly began to realize how little the community and physicians know about ovarian cancer. There was a huge lack of healthy ovarian cancer survivors out there to spread the word and work on raising awareness of the disease. Many of the close friends I made in the group passed away during or shortly after my journey. I knew I was still here for a reason and it became my mission to educate the community on ovarian cancer in hopes of earlier detection and more lives saved.
In O.A.K., my favorite program is Survivors Teaching Students. This is where survivors go and tell their stories to every third-year medical student that passes through UK and U of L. It is our goal that these future doctors will keep ovarian cancer in their realm of possibilities when treating woman and lead to earlier diagnosis. Wherever I go, I try to educate women on ovarian cancer, even handing out symptom cards at my real estate open houses.
They call Ovarian Cancer “The Silent Killer.” How can women recognize the symptoms as more than just everyday nuances of our bodies?
We are actually trying to get away from the term “silent” with ovarian cancer. In the majority of women, symptoms are present even in the earliest of stages. The problem lies in that the symptoms mimic many more common conditions and most women experience these symptoms several times throughout the year.
The symptoms are:
- abdominal bloating or pressure
- change in bowels
- frequency in urination
- eating and feeling full very quickly
- painful intercourse
- lack of energy
- lower back pain
The key is when any of these symptoms persist for longer than two weeks and are abnormal for your body. That is when you need to go to your doctor and insist they rule out ovarian/gynecological cancers.
Tell us how your son supports you in his own way:
Aydyn is a very big supporter of ovarian cancer awareness. He has attended many events with me including the Dee Edwards Memorial Whisper Walk held every year in September and loves to tell people about it. Every year in September, he paints his fingernails and toenails teal and wears it for the entire month. He actually has had a couple friends jump on board for a day or two with it. It’s his way supporting me.
How do you balance your job and your personal life?
I have a wonderful husband who grasped the concept of “leaning in” long before the book hit the shelves.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
You have to be your own advocate, especially when it comes to your health, and persistence pays off.
Who is your mentor?
I have so many. I find energy and encouragement with so many of the women I meet in real estate and through O.A.K. Louisville is loaded with incredible women that I learn from.
What is best advice you have received in business?
If you are not hearing no, you are not giving yourself the opportunity to be successful.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
I would love to own a flower shop! I worked in one when I first moved to Louisville and really miss it sometimes.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I am determined to be on the reality show Big Brother.
What is your favorite place to go for dinner?
Where do you like to shop?
I love shopping online.
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
Z Spa massage every few months.
What is your weakness?
Chocolate milk–it’s ridiculous.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Try all of the different local restaurants. There are so many, I don’t think I will ever run out of new places to try.
Three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends):
- Green smoothies
- My phone
- Friday night deck parties with my neighbors
What are you reading right now?
Masterminds and Wingmen by Rosalind Wiseman
What are three of your “favorite” things right now:
- Teal toes pictures I’m tagged in
- A never-ending group text with my childhood girlfriends
- My Nook
Meeting Stephanie and hearing her story really stuck with us. Thank you for teaching us about a cancer that is so dangerous because we are not aware of it. The cute house that also happens to be teal is for sale through Stephanie in Crescent Hill. To see it click here: http://www.
Adele really captured all of Stephanie’s strength and beauty in her pictures. Thank you for sharing your talent with us. For more information on Adele Reding Photography, please click here.