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Survivor story: Annie Sanders

Annie Sanders, the founder of Safe Haven Center for Domestic Violence, is not only a domestic abuse survivor, but also a cancer survivor. Additionally, she has grappled with other major medical ailments such as multiple sclerosis and Chiari malformation type 1. She’s passionate about helping others who are going through similar experiences and committed to providing support and resources to those who need it most.


I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June 2022. In the summer of 2020, during the pandemic, I had a procedure to determine the source of my pain and was diagnosed with endometriosis. The pain subsided a bit, but unfortunately not for long. I had to undergo a partial hysterectomy, leaving the ovaries, in February 2021. It wasn’t until April 2022 that the pain returned, and my urologist/gynecologist decided to remove my right ovary because it was giving me the most problems.

I was diagnosed when pathology tested my right ovary after my procedure (oophorectomy) and found my tumor.

Sanders recovers at Ochsner Baptist after a procedure to remove her left ovary and check her lymph nodes.


There were warning signs; however, it was not necessarily evident that my symptoms were cancer related because these signs can mimic those of other common conditions. Early warning signs include bloating or swelling, quickly feeling full when eating, weight loss, discomfort in the pelvic area, fatigue, back pain and changes in bowel habits such as constipation. I personally experienced bloating/swelling, quickly feeling full when eating, pelvic discomfort and fatigue. There is no screening or early detection test for ovarian cancer. Regular health exams are very useful because during a pelvic exam, the physician typically feels the ovaries and uterus for size, shape and consistency.


Sanders and her daughter, Dora, the day Annie’s hair was cut (about a week after her first round of chemo).
Annie Sanders underwent six rounds of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

My struggle has been unimaginable. Being a single, working parent going through cancer is a battle. Simple day-to-day tasks are daunting, and something as simple as taking a shower, brushing your teeth or even putting on shoes seems like climbing Mount Everest. I underwent six rounds of chemotherapy (one round every three weeks), and the effects are cumulative. The side effects get worse with each cycle.


Annie Sanders marked the end of her cancer treatment in a bell-ringing ceremony at Singing River Health System. Sanders, right, and Dr. Michael Finan, left

I am currently in remission and under observation for the next five years. I will say from this experience, I have gained the knowledge that you have to walk your own journey — meaning you can’t become caught up in how someone else’s path compares to yours. It can be debilitating and draining because every case is different. Of course, you can get advice from others and share experiences. However, your journey is your total focus. It may sound cliché, but take the information as it comes and go step by step and one day at a time.


  • abdominal swelling
  • abdominal distention
  • nausea
  • poor appetite
  • pelvic or abdominal pain

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