February 13, 2020 by John Fernandez
A Survivor’s Dream Come True
A diagnosis of ovarian cancer is scary. But when you’re 25 years old, engaged to be married and had hoped to have children, it can be downright devastating.
That’s the reality that Alina Bogdan, now 29, faced four years ago when doctors in the Cayman Islands told her she had ovarian cancer and would need a hysterectomy.
Not wanting to give up on her dream to someday have children, Ms. Bogdan opted for surgery to remove only the tumorous ovary and chemotherapy to prevent spreading.
But when tests revealed the cancer may have spread to her lungs, the Romanian national sought the help of Baptist Health International to come to Miami to have a lung biopsy performed by John DeRosimo, M.D., a Baptist Health Medical Group thoracic surgeon. Luckily, her lungs were cancer-free.
Yet, she soon found out another mass was growing on her left ovary – the one left behind from her initial surgery.
Enter gynecologic oncologist Nicholas Lambrou, M.D., medical director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at South Miami Hospital, who along with Ms. Bogdan’s oncologist Peter Citron, M.D., had a gut feeling her cancer was treatable without completely removing her remaining ovary and uterus – a surgery that would have dashed her dream of becoming a mom.
So, Dr. Lambrou suggested robot-assisted surgery with the intent to remove only the cancerous part of her ovary, as long as there was no evidence of the cancer having spread to other organs and tissue. The doctors’ hunch was correct and Ms. Bogdan left the operating room with part of her left ovary and her uterus intact.
“With younger patients like Alina, whose cancer is caught early,” Dr. Lambrou said, “we want to look at preserving their fertility.”
Sadly two years later, it was back to Dr. Lambrou with evidence that the cancer had returned to her ovary. This time, it was necessary for him to completely remove the tumor, using the same robotic approach he used before.
“The benefit of robotic surgery is that there is less scar tissue, so repeated surgeries don’t negatively affect our ability to see what’s going on inside a patient’s body,” Dr. Lambrou said. “Plus the magnified camera helps us see better than we would with our own eyes.”
In surgery, Dr. Lambrou again determined that the cancer had responded to chemotherapy and the uterus was clear of cancer, so he left it in and she again left Miami for the Cayman Islands cancer-free.
“There are different types of ovarian cancer,” Dr. Lambrou said. “It was important for us to understand what type we were dealing with and to consider the priorities of the patient. In this case, I was confident about her diagnosis and our ability to offer her hope and cure. Alina’s the type of person you want to fight for.”
With no ovaries, Ms. Bogdan turned to her sister to donate eggs and a fertility specialist in Costa Rica to make her dreams of becoming a mom come true. Through in vitro fertilization, she and her husband last year began planning for the birth of their baby.
“We monitored her like a typical higher-risk pregnancy to be sure that there was no evidence of a recurrence,” Dr. Petersen said. “But we were optimistic, because she had responded so well to chemo and surgery.”
Ms. Bogdan delivered her son Ari at South Miami Hospital on May 27. He weighed 8 pounds, 14 ounces and both he, Mom and Dad are doing well, Dr. Petersen said.
As for Ms. Bogdan’s prognosis and ability to have another child, Dr. Petersen is again optimistic.
“She follows medical advice very well and has a sense of what to look for in terms of her health,” he said. “If she wants to have another child, she could, paying the same level of attention she and her husband did to this pregnancy.”