Cancer event chairwoman fighting cancer herself

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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Sarasota Women's Cancer Awareness luncheon was held Wednesday at Rectrix Aerodrome, benefiting Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

Last year, the not-for-profit center had nearly 340,000 in and outpatient visits, some of those by Suncoast residents who travel just an hour north to receive world-class care.

At the luncheon ABC 7 spoke with the event chairwoman, who is also fighting cancer.

If Christine Sandrib looks brave telling the crowd her cancer story, it's because she is brave. She was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer two and a half years ago. “I just never believed I wasn't going to make it. I just said ‘well okay, what do we need to do to get to the next step?’ I knew that anything that happened to me was only temporary and I could handle anything temporarily.”

And she did with vigor, through surgery and 6 rounds of chemotherapy at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. “The cancer was gone. I responded very well, so I thought I was home free.”

But she wasn't. A year later, Sandrib's cancer came back; that meant more surgery and another four rounds of chemo.

Then just about three months ago, she found out her cancer had returned for a third time. “I've learned so much about myself. I've learned how strong I am, I knew I had amazing friends and family, but now it's confirmed exponentially.”

Sandrib is now hoping to take part in a clinical trial; one of many ongoing at Moffitt.

Director of the cancer center, Dr. Tom Sellers, has done extensive research on ovarian cancer. Much of his work focuses on how genetics affect our predisposition to cancer. “We're looking across the genome and finding little tiny changes in our DNA blueprint that are associated with increased risk.”

Dr. Sellers says ovarian cancer has few symptoms and there isn't an effective test to detect it early. “Unfortunately it's often diagnosed at late stage, and our options for curative therapy are limited. But we're still trying and there is hope and that's why we need to do more research and events like this are fantastic for that, the support we feel from the community.”

Sandrib credits support, a positive attitude, and her oncologist for helping her fight cancer. “In my last appointment with her, she said, ‘Christine, I want you to focus on living a happy life and let me worry about curing your cancer.’ So that's what I'm doing, living a happy life and letting experts do what they do."

Dr. Sellers says taking birth control pills for at least five years can lower a woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer by about 50%. He says maintaining a healthy weight can also decrease your risk.

If symptoms do exist, they may be subtle and include bloating, pelvic pain, feeling full, and bowel and bladder changes. See your doctor if these last two weeks or more.