A gardener. A survivor. A cancer activist.
Like the perennials that return to her garden each year, Gail Rappa of Cantonment has come back to life after two major surgeries and rigorous rounds of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.
Today, Gail's goal is to alert women to the symptoms of ovarian cancer and urge them to seek care if those symptoms persist for more than two weeks. "Unfortunately, there is no early-detection tool for ovarian cancer, and this cancer is diagnosed in one in 72 women," says Gail.
In 2005, Gail attributed her frequent urination to menopause, her side-ache to lifting her grandson too much, and painful, irregular bowel movements to aging. But the real culprit was ovarian cancer. Once diagnosed, Gail underwent surgery to remove her ovaries and a long, complicated procedure to enhance the effectiveness of several rounds of chemotherapy. She then turned to Dr. Thomas Sunnenberg, a cancer specialist who had the expertise to administer intraperitoneal chemotherapy. Five years later the cancer returned, but with swift treatment from her doctors she is now in remission again.
She credits her success as a survivor to many people at Sacred Heart, including Dr. Sunnenberg and Dr. Steven DeCesare, a gynecologic oncologist. Gail received care in both the inpatient cancer unit at Sacred Heart Hospital and at Sacred Heart's Cancer Center in Pensacola. "The inpatient nursing staff is amazing - so knowledgeable and understanding of my concerns. And the new Cancer Center is so dynamic. I love the private patient areas."Determined to survive to spend time with her grandson and granddaughter, Gail says, "I can't let this disease get me down - I'm here for a reason."