When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Stay Funny: Trina Shpur’s Cancer Story

In July 2017, after suffering constant pain in her spleen and bloating, Trina Shpur made a visit to her general practitioner (GP). He scheduled Trina for an ultrasound, during which the ultrasound technician expressed sudden concern. This prompted Trina to press her GP for clarity as to why she was enduring these symptoms. The doctor misattributed her experience of ascites, which is abdominal swelling caused by accumulation of fluid, to liver sclerosis.

While the bloating and pain continued to intensify, it wasn’t until two months later that a CAT scan with contrast revealed ovarian tumors. That September, at the age of 58, Trina was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer.

Within four days of receiving a diagnosis, Trina was scheduled for a complete bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with omentectomy, which involves the removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes and removal of the abdominal tissue encasing the abdominal organs, respectively. She then received a regimen of cisplatin IP chemotherapy, halting after four of six rounds due to complications.

Hair loss occurred during the chemotherapy treatment, but Trina saw it as an opportunity to be proactive and entertaining.

“When I asked my friend to shave my head, I made an event out of it by going through different stages until we finally wound down to none,” she said. Trina mocked up various characters and personas to her Facebook profile for each hair phase, including the likes of rock stars, T.V. legends, and renowned philosophers.

In challenging her cancer with a lens of humor, Trina shares, “You can only keep one type of thought in your mind at a time, so you might as well make it positive because there is something else on the other side of it all,” – a mantra learned from her friend who survived rectal cancer.

Trina utilizes humor as a tool to help others feel at ease in dealing with the concept of her diagnosis, and as a way to confront it one day at a time. Finding little things to laugh about throughout the process has allowed Trina to own her diagnosis, and “not let it define me.”

Trina wants those newly diagnosed to know that there is a system in place to tackle the cancer and encourages taking advantage of support groups and resources when offered. She advises reading up on treatment options and says that “if you do choose chemo, know you have fabulous options for hats, wigs, scarves, etc.!”

Trina also urges people to be proactive about their bodies, taking action when something does not feel right and to pursue answers when necessary. “It’s your body and your life, so don’t let anyone marginalize your concerns or gut feelings,” she said.

Trina, now 60-years old, works as an Executive Assistant in commercial realty services in Los Angeles and makes regular visits to her gynecologist oncologist to check her CA125, which has been hovering steadily around 12.

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