Larry and Carmen Brotherton became an integral part of the Dragon Boat Upstate Festival, after Carmen's ovarian cancer diagnosis and recovery.
Carmen Brotherton nearly walked out of her annual checkup
without requesting the simple test that may have saved her life.
Brotheron’s gynecologist had just conducted her regular exam and found
everything to be normal.
“Before my appointment, a friend had recommended I have an
ovarian cancer screening test,” said Brotherton. “It was as if a little
voice whispered a reminder in my ear as I was leaving the doctor’s
The test for ovarian cancer is not a standard test and not
normally covered by insurance, but it was the best $100 Brotherton ever
The gynecologist explained the test and added it to
Brotherton’s chart. A week later, she received a phone call while
driving home from the beach. The test showed she had elevated levels of
CA-125, indicating possible ovarian cancer. Immediately upon her return,
she underwent a vaginal ultrasound, which revealed two ovarian cysts
with possible fluid buildup – a second indicator that cancer might be
present. Brotherton then was referred to Larry Puls, M.D., a gynecologic
oncologist with the Cancer Institute of Greenville Health System (GHS).
“Surgery to remove both my ovaries was scheduled for the next
week, but even for that short time, the waiting was stressful,” remarked
Brotherton. “Results of the surgery confirmed my fears. I had cancer,
but I was incredibly lucky to be diagnosed at stage 1A, the earliest
The early detection may have saved her life. Like most patients with ovarian cancer in early stages of the disease, Brotherton did not exhibit any symptoms, and her cancer was undetectable through a physical exam.
Had she not requested the test, it may not have been detected until it reached an advanced stage.
Thankfully, the cancerous tissue was confined to one ovary. To
be safe, Brotherton’s surgeon removed both ovaries as planned. Her
oncologist then recommended a course of chemotherapy to kill any stray
cells that may have escaped.
“I was overcome with tears of joy,” said Brotherton’s husband,
Larry, upon the news that the cancer had not spread. “I felt helpless
when Carmen was diagnosed and I had to leave her in the hands of others.
But God was with us, and our prayers were answered through the healing
hands of her doctors.”
After chemo, Brotherton entered Moving On, an oncology
rehabilitation program the GHS Cancer Institute offers in conjunction
with the University of South Carolina Department of Exercise Science.
She began the program to regain her strength and energy after chemo –
and found something more: a way to give back to cancer patients and
families like hers through the Dragon Boat Upstate Festival.
“The Moving On staff and patients were so passionate and
motivated,” she said. “They combined the exercise and mind/body programs
of the rehabilitation program with passionate social fundraising for
the GHS Cancer Center to create the most fun event I’ve ever been a part
Husband Larry sponsored a dragon boat, B-aware, for her and her
new friends at the Ovarian Cancer Foundation. The boating festival
became a bonding experience for the Brotherton family as the couple’s
three children, eight grandchildren and extended family came to support
“The festival was a great, fun time,” Carmen said. “There was
so much camaraderie among and between the teams. We were all united to
support cancer research and treatment plans in the Upstate. I was most
touched when I saw the doctors and nurses from the Cancer Center working
with patients and supporters in a different environment. Knowing they
really care is powerful. They cared enough to come to Lake Hartwell on a
weekend, donate their time and money, and paddle their tails off in a
The Dragon Boat Upstate Festival isn’t the only way Brotherton
gives back. When she finished chemo treatments, she started volunteering
at the Cancer Center, helping around the office and keeping patients
company as they undergo long treatments.
“When patients learn I’m a survivor, that I was sitting in that treatment chair not long ago, it gives them hope,” she said. “This experience has given me a new purpose: helping people fight cancer.”
If you'd like more information on supporting cancer patients and families, contact Philanthropy & Partnership Director of Cancer Services Jim Kaltenbach at (864) 797-7734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.