Fortuitous foul helped woman survive cancer

Reprinted with permission from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

May 15, 2006 - Surgeons removed 15 tumors from Jenny Sorrell's abdomen; one was the size of a football


Jenny Sorrell saw the foul ball coming, but there was no time to jump out of the way.

"It was going something like 150 miles per hour, and believe me it felt like it," said Sorrell, recalling her outing to Ameriquest Field on May 7, 2005, the day before Mother's Day, when she took her mother, Joan Sorrell, to a game.

"It hit so hard, I heard a popping noise," said Jenny Sorrell of Grand Prairie. "I felt like if I looked down, I would see my insides falling out."

The line drive, hit by then-Rangers infielder Alfonso Soriano, left an imprint and a bruise on Jenny Sorrell's stomach.

Joan Sorrell tried to keep it together for her daughter's sake. But inside, she was worried.

"I wondered how in the world could the ball hit her that hard and she could still hold up that well," said Joan Sorrell of Fort Worth.

By the next day, Jenny Sorrell's abdomen was so swollen that she looked nine months pregnant. Her sister persuaded her to go to a hospital emergency room, where she underwent a CAT scan to determine what was causing the swelling.

"The doctor said the good news was I didn't bust my spleen or damage my kidneys," said Sorrell, 45. "The bad news was I had cancer."

Ovarian cancer. Stage 3C.

Sorrell asked the doctor to repeat what he said.

"The radiologist said, 'We know cancer when we see it,'" she said. "It was the most surreal moment."

The first doctor she saw after her diagnosis did not offer much hope. But Dr. John Schorge, a gynecological oncologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, was more optimistic and proposed an aggressive treatment.

He removed 15 tumors from Sorrell's abdomen, including one the size of a football. He also removed her ovaries, uterus, spleen, appendix and part of her small intestine. Five liters of fluid were drained from Sorrell's body, causing her to immediately lose 25 pounds.

The surgery was a success — Schorge was able to remove all visible signs of cancer.

"Even a couple of weeks later that may have not been the case," he said.

After she recovered from the surgery, Sorrell started eight sessions of chemotherapy that left her tired and nauseated. To reduce the risk of reoccurrence, she opted to participate in a clinical trial that ended in December.

In 80 percent to 90 percent of cases, ovarian cancer returns.

"The first year is like a crap shoot," she said. "Some women live a long time; others do not."

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 20,180 cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year in the United States. About 15,310 women will die from the disease. About 10 percent to 20 percent of patients with advanced ovarian cancer are cured, Schorge said.

"I have some Stage 4 patients who have been in remission five years and it is looking very promising for them," he said. "You can't figure out who will be the lucky ones and go into remission. How long remission lasts is out of our hands."

Jenny Sorrell said she quit her high-stress job for a mortgage company and since has focused on raising awareness of ovarian cancer, which is the eighth most common cancer in women. A woman's risk of getting ovarian cancer during her lifetime is about 1 in 58.

Looking back, Jenny Sorrell recalls some symptoms, but they were subtle and she ignored them.

Schorge said no accurate screening method exists for the disease; 75 percent of cases are asymptomatic until the cancer is advanced.

Jenny Sorrell believes that getting hit by the baseball was no accident. "I think the ball got passed to me and now I have a responsibility to do something with it," she said.

There were just too many coincidences, she said. She ordered her tickets in advance, got the wrong seats but accepted them anyway.

She and her mother discussed leaving the game early to go to a Mavericks game. But they decided to stay to watch Soriano, who later sent her an autographed ball.

If any one thing had played out differently, she might have discovered the cancer too late, she said.

Jenny Sorrell remains a big baseball fan. But now when she goes to the ballpark, she takes her glove.

This Mother's Day, she said, she is giving her mother the best gift imaginable.

"I'm alive," she said. "And I intend to just keep living my life."


Ovarian cancer

In 2006, about 20,180 cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and an estimated 15,310 women will die from the disease. The five-year survival rate for all stages is 44.6 percent. Women with a family history of breast, ovarian, endometrial or colon cancer may have an increased risk.

Common signs include:

  • An enlargement of the abdomen, which is caused by accumulation of fluid.
  • Persistent digestive disturbances in women older than 40.
  • Urinary symptoms.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society

Jan Jarvis
(817) 548-5423