Chemo Buddy Bonnie Featured in Courier Gleaner

It’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and our very own Chemo Buddy Bonnie was featured in this story in the Gleaner! YAY Bonnie, we think you are wonderful! 

Donna B. Stinnett/The Gleaner Bonnie Thomas, left, and Marsha Royster are united in spreading a message of awareness during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.


Henderson women Bonnie Thomason and Marsha Royster have some things in common.

They’ve both been businesswomen working in downtown Henderson.

They’ve both loaned their dancing skills to RiverBend Academy’s annual ballroom dance fundraiser.

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Donna B. Stinnett/The Gleaner Bonnie Thomas, left, and Marsha Royster are united in spreading a message of awareness during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

And now they’ve both developed a distinct fondness for the color teal — the color for Ovarian Cancer Awareness.

Acquaintances who have seen their friendship grow, Thomason and Royster have become united in a cause and have a message to get out this month during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

They both have personal stories to tell about their experience with the disease.

And they want women older than age 50 as well as younger women with a family history of ovarian cancer to know about a free screening that’s available to them to help them take a proactive approach to preventive health care.

For several years, Thomason has traveled to Paducah with her sister to participate in the Ovarian Cancer Screening Program of University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center. The screening test consists of a transvaginal ultrasound imaging of the ovaries.

This test, Thomason said, reveals problems that a regular annual gynecological exam might not detect.

In normal years, their day would consist of screening, lunch and shopping. They’d have fun and all would be well.

But in June 2011, Thomason’s screening technician asked if she’d been experiencing any pain, which immediately sent up a red flag. Something didn’t look right on the films and the scan images were shipped off to Lexington for evaluation.

On Monday, she got a phone call from a doctor directing her to a lab for a CA-125 blood test, which can be an indicator of certain types of cancer being present, including ovarian cancer.

By June 21, Thomason had been diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer and was scheduled for surgery that day, followed by a period of chemotherapy and recovery.

“I didn’t have any symptoms, and in 2010 I had a clear test,” Thomason said. “A year later, I had Stage 3 ovarian cancer. That’s how fast it can happen. You’re going every year and being checked (with Pap smear and mammogram), but you’re not being checked for a silent killer.”

She’s got a clean bill of health now, though her screenings and blood tests are even more aggressive. Now she’s devoting time to promoting awareness and serving as a volunteer to help others cope through chemotherapy and its impact.

And talking to friends like Royster, who contacted her for advice just a few short weeks ago.

In May, Royster said, she had her annual exam and everything checked out fine.

Later in the summer, she went to the hospital emergency room with pain in her right side, which was evaluated to be a gall bladder attack, and she was scheduled for surgery to have it removed.

But after a little more aggressive testing by her doctor, the cancer was discovered on her ovaries. For various reasons regarding the care she might require, she ended up at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center and had surgery just a little more than two weeks ago.

“The only symptom I had was a pain in my right side,” said Royster, who is now recuperating at home from her surgery before she begins her chemotherapy treatments. “My doctors did a really good job finding out what was wrong. I was really lucky. It’s good to have good doctors like we have both had.

“The beauty of it is, we’re going to be fine. I’m going to be a survivor,” she added, adding that she’s determined to stay positive through the next phase of recovery. “You can fight it and you have to go on as normal as possible.”

Part of their positive spin after having ovarian cancer is to help inform and educate others about the disease and promoting awareness, including the availability of the screening test program.

“You need to be proactive about your own health,” Royster said. “Stand up for your body. You know it better than anyone else.”

As a volunteer at an area cancer center, Thomason said it makes her feel good to help others on their journey through cancer treatment as well as to encourage other women to stay informed and proactive.

She never tells patients that she’s a cancer survivor unless they ask, but most of them eventually do.

“I just feel like it gives them hope,” she said, when the patients see her looking well.

Royster said that was the way it was for her when Thomason quickly responded to her phone call that she needed to talk, that she had questions to ask someone who had been down the same road.

“It made me feel good,” she said.