Beating a Silent Killer: Gina’s story

What would you do if you heard the words “you have cancer?” 

Gina Zarletti of Racine  is one of the faces of Aurora Health Care’s Cancer Knows No Borders campaign. She shared her cancer journey in the August 7 edition of the Racine Journal Times. Here’s an excerpt of that article.

Ovarian cancer is about as insidious as a disease gets.

There’s no practical, effective screening for it. There are few early warning signals for it. It’s the eighth most reported cancer among women, but ranks fifth on the mortality list.

It’s the deadliest gynecological cancer.

It’s called the silent killer.

Gina Zarletti, of Racine, wants to raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

Gina Zarletti, of Racine, wants to raise awareness about ovarian cancer.

Racine resident Gina Zarletti wants to turn up the volume on the disease, which strikes about 20,000 women a year.

“We need to have more attention on ovarian cancer,” Zarletti said. “I think we need more talk and more education about how we can learn to listen to our bodies and talk with our physicians.

“The more women who can hear more about ovarian cancer, the better,” she added. “We need to have more conversation.”

Zarletti certainly can speak to the aggressive nature of the cancer. She was diagnosed with it in October 2014, after experiencing severe cramping at a family wedding. She underwent an eight-hour operation, then endured a year-long recovery before being declared cancer free.

Listening to your body

In this video, Zarletti explains her battle with cancer and how determination and love from family and friends got her through it. “Perseverance will get you through,” she said in the video.

That’s exactly what Zarletti has used since October 2014, when she had to leave a family wedding before the wedding party was even introduced because of severe cramping.

“At first, I thought it was maybe food poisoning, but the pains were very sharp and continuous, and I knew something just wasn’t right,” she said. “I always believed you have to listen to your body. And my body was now telling me something was wrong.”

Zarletti found out she had stage IIIC ovarian cancer. “It was everywhere,” she said. Two days later she underwent an eight-hour operation to remove a tumor in her abdominal area.

She spent several days in the hospital, then endured 18 weeks and six rounds of chemotherapy. She was declared cancer free in June 2015.

But during her struggle with ovarian cancer, Zarletti discovered she carried a gene making her susceptible to breast cancer. Taking no chances, she had a double mastectomy last summer.

Today, much of Zarletti’s color, energy and hair have returned. She’s preparing to return to work, she will split time as a counselor between Fratt and Fine Arts schools. She also recently moved from her condo to a new house near Wind Point — her first residence with a yard, she said.

“When you go through something like this, it’s day to day. You put everything else aside,” Zarletti said. “You are focusing almost all the time on getting well and recuperating.

“Now I have a sense of peace and serenity in my life,” she said. “I’m more relaxed. I’m taking in life and enjoying it.”


To learn more about Aurora Health Care’s Cancer Knows No Borders campaign, or to make a gift, CLICK HERE.


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