Mandy Garavaglia

2021 Model Survivor

My name is Mandy Garavaglia and I am 36 years ok. Wife to Johnny and mama to Stella (6). I was diagnosed with stage 1c ovarian cancer on January 17, 2018. Here is my story of how lucky I was to find this undetectable disease.

At age 32, we had hoped to conceive another baby through IVF. I had always thought infertility was going to be my biggest heartbreak in life, but boy was I in for more challenging battles eventually. During a saline sonogram to check my uterus to make sure it was ready for implantation, there were polyps found in my uterus.

A surgery was preformed and about a week later I got a call saying the pathology had revealed that I had a early stage uterine cancer also known as endometrial cancer. At this time I was told to discontinue fertility and see a GYN oncologist.

Luckily, I was able to meet Dr. Julia Chapman at the cancer center. Dr. Chapman said conception was out of the question until there was a complete reversal of the endometrial cancer. To treat the cancer, she placed a device in my uterus to stop the growth of the lining.

Fast forward a year, I showed no signs of uterine cancer and I was given the green light to continue my fertility battle. Sadly, our dreams of another child never came to fruition but little did I know that god had a bigger plan to help me find what could have killed me at the perfect time.

Dr. Chapman recommended that I had my uterus taken out in July of 2017. I had been monitored closely every 3 months with ultrasound and biopsy but I still wasn’t ready. I asked to wait until the holidays were over and scheduled the hysterectomy in January of 2018. A week before surgery we did a routine ultrasound. The scan revealed a 10cm mass on my right ovary that had not been there 5 months prior.

The new surgery plan called for a zipper sized incision in my abdomen. Dr Chapman would remove the right ovary and send it to pathology. If the tumor was cancerous , she would then make an incision up to the breastbone, perform a full hysterectomy, and search for cancer in other organs and lymph nodes. I did not know when I went to sleep what I would wake up to.

Those were the scariest days of my life leading up to that day. When I woke, I saw my husband and he was crying. He then softly told me I had cancer and would have to do chemotherapy. I went through 4 rounds of high dose chemotherapy but thanks to my husband, was able to use cold capping to preserve my hair and keep some normalcy for my daughter.

In September of 2019 I also decided to do a prophylactic double mastectomy even though I tested negative for BRCA. During this long battle of infertility, cancer and multiple surgeries I have learned so many things. I have learned to advocate for myself despite my age and family history. I feel so blessed to have found these cancers early despite what I have lost. I have clung to those I love and the army of people who prayed for us and continue to do so today. I try to remember that god created our emotions, not just the happy ones. My moments of deepest grief, deepest pain, have resulted in the most beautiful seasons in my heart. I've met God more intimately in these moments than in all other happy moments combined.