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Harry Connick Junior Show Michele collinsHarry Connick Junior Show Michele collins
Oct 15, 2018

Michele Collins: Ovarian Cancer Advocate

By Lori Draz

NJ Lincroft Michele collins

This September, Lincroft turned teal, the color for ovarian cancer awareness, largely because of the efforts of Lincroft resident Michele Collins.

Collins, a school psychologist and kitten foster mom, has lived in Lincroft with her husband, Kevin, 14-year-old daughter Ava, 12-year-old son George, and their two dogs and three cats. Life was tranquil until Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Just two weeks prior, an orange-sized mass was discovered on Collin’s left ovary. She was diagnosed with Stage 2B High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer.

Collins was 39 years old, with no risk factors or family history. She carries no genetic mutations, yet this young mother found herself having a radical hysterectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) in New York City. Five weeks later, she began six rounds of both IV + IP (intraperitoneal) chemotherapy to eradicate any possible microscopic cells. It took four months, and in July 2015, she was declared to be in remission, though she continues having follow-up exams, CT scans and bloodwork.

Harry Connick Junior Show Michele collinsHarry Connick Junior Show Michele collins

Harry Connick Junior Show

Since Collins’ diagnosis and – more importantly – her remission, she has become very involved with advocacy for ovarian cancer and raising awareness. She volunteers at MSK Monmouth as a Patient to Patient Volunteer; serves as a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council for Quality committee at MSK; and is a peer support member for SHARE.

Collins also participates in the Survivors Teaching Students program, conducted under the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance. In this program, survivors visit medical schools to share their story with medical students, hoping they will be more aware of diagnosing the disease.

It was a most unexpected turn of events for Collins, but she has learned a lot from her journey. “I view life a lot different than I did before. I value every day and I don’t let the little things get to me as much as before,” she said. “I consider aging a gift, and my goal is to grow old with my friends and family.” She and her family are looking forward to traveling again, and are planning a cruise in the near future.

Collins urges women to “be your own advocate. If you have any unusual or abnormal symptoms, like bloating, pelvic and abdominal pain, early satiety (the rapid feeling of fullness) or urinary symptoms like urgency and menstrual irregularities that last longer than two weeks, get yourself checked,” she said. “A lot of people think a PAP test detects it, but it only detects cervical cancer. There is no screening for ovarian cancer. If you are concerned, visit your OB-GYN and ask about a transvaginal ultrasound and a CA-125 blood test.”

To get involved, Collins suggests her favorite charities: Kaleidoscope of Hope Foundation (kohnj.org) and SHARE (sharecancersupport.org).

Michele Collins has emerged from her battle as a strong warrior. In addition to turning Lincroft teal, Collins appeared at the Harry Connick, Jr. show in February of this year. Connick’s mother passed from the disease. She said he was just charming and very supportive of all the cancer survivors.

To connect with her, email micheleEcollins@gmail.com.