By Aaron Stevens
She woke up one day with an extreme pain in her left leg, not knowing she was about to deal with the silent killer.
Diana Westphal went to the clinic, and the doctor told her it was a pinched nerve. But the pain continued, so she went back.
The doctor ordered an MRI, and that is when they found the mass.
“The doctors declared that it was stage 3C ovarian cancer,” Diana said.
She quickly researched online because she did not know much about the disease, and it did not run in her family.
Diana said reading about ovarian cancer was very depressing, because the survival rate is very low.
According to the Mayo Clinic, ovarian cancer develops in the ovaries. It usually goes undetected until it has spread into the pelvis and abdomen.
Ovarian cancer is called the silent killer because one usually does not develop any symptoms, and it is too late to stop the deadly disease after it has spread all over the body, she said.
She said the cancer cells left her ovaries and formed a tumor in her hip.
Luckily for Diana, she experienced pain. This unusual formation of the cancer gave her symptoms of the silent killer by forming a tumor. If not for the pain in her hip, she may not have caught the cancer in time.
Still, Diana said they had to still reduce the size of the tumor so they could successfully reach it with surgery.
She said her body responded very well to chemotherapy. She went through four treatments.
“Every chemo treatment I had, it kept hacking into the tumor,” she said. “When I went in for the surgery, they found no traces of the cancer.”
While going through chemotherapy treatments, she continued to teach.
She has been at Triton High School for 19 years, and the diagnoses affected the whole community when they heard, a staff member said.
“Everyone at the school tried their best to do whatever they can to make it easy,” said Dawn Slein, a science teacher at Triton and Diana’s personal friend for over 10 years. “When life isn’t easy, anything you can do to make it easy, helps.”
Despite the help, Dawn said Diana would already have assignments and projects organized. She ran everything from home. She didn’t want her students to miss out on anything, so she tried her best to be in class.
Michelle Waymouth is a special education teacher at Triton and said she has been close with Diana for over 14 years.
She was devastated when she heard the news about the cancer.
“I knew it was beatable because my mom went through it,” Michelle said. “But it was a different kind. I made sure that she knew that we were with her all along the way.”
She said the school was very good to her, and let her take a lot of time off.
“She is very dedicated to her job and wanted to be there for the kids and did not want anyone to feel like they missed out on anything,” Michelle said. “She pushed through and worked through the whole thing.”
Dawn and Michelle helped put together a fundraiser for Diana a few months ago, and all the proceeds went directly to Diana, to help with medical costs, Michelle said.
She said at the fundraiser, they auctioned off former student paintings, baked goods and even had a photo booth.
Diana said she is thankful for what the community and her former students did. She has been cancer free for six months, but has not bounced back 100 percent yet.
“I am a lot better than I was, the only thing that caused me issues was the chemo,” Diana said. “The cancer itself, other than causing pain in my leg, didn’t do anything.”
Now cancer free, she has to continue to get checked every three months.
After five years, she has to get checked only once a year.
Diana said her advice for anyone going through this is to have supportive people to tell you everything is going to be okay. She has fought through the odds and defeated the silent killer.