VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Once again this year 10 On Your Side is showcasing our efforts to help Crush Cancer.
Ahead of the big event this Sunday at The Cavalier Golf and Yacht Club, we want to introduce you to a woman whose fight against cancer started early in life.
Keep in mind, that statistics show ovarian cancer survival rates are much lower than other cancers that affect women, which makes 21-year-old Carley Rudolf’s story that much more remarkable.
There is so much to Rudolf’s story.
Like when she was eight she loved the beach and sand, the 11-year-old who started playing golf, the teenager who became a local golf phenom.
“I was in 11th grade, and the first round I got a hole in one, and I ended up winning the State Youth Championship.”
She would win the VHSL Girls State Golf Championship twice as a high school freshman and Junior while attending First Colonial High school.
At age 21, Carley has bagged three and a half holes in one.
“Well, the half was at The First Tee. It was only 70 yards,” she said with a smile.
Everything was fine until Feb. 17, 2021 when things became not O.K.
“I started having horrible stomach pains for a whole year,” Rudolf said. “I went to multiple doctors, the emergency room, everything looked normal.”
Now we know things were not normal at all.
The diagnosis would be missed for a year of time until February 2022.
“It was finally diagnosed as stage three ovarian cancer, and it was all over and up to my liver,” she said.
That year had not been kind, and Rudolf was given a 50-50 shot to survive five years.
“Nobody expected me to have ovarian cancer because it occurs in older women,” Rudolf said.
Statistics show that’s true.
New cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed most in women:
- Ages 55-64 at 24.7%
- Ages 65-74 23.7%
How rare is it for a 19-year-old like Carley Rudolf to get ovarian cancer?
Only 1.3%, according to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance.
“I was so shocked,” Rudolf said. “My mom was a wreck; it was awful. The whole family was a mess.”
Her mother, Christy, was angry.
“I actually have anger; it took a whole year to diagnose her,” Christy Rudolf said. “She went to different kinds of doctors … and everyone said she looked fine. No one saw it on the scan, nobody.”
After a year at two other hospitals, the Rudolfs were referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
Christy Rudolf remembers.
“We sent the scan up to Sloan Kettering (and) they said ‘get her up here right away,'” Christy Rudolf said. “So yes, I had anger. It took a whole year to get someone to figure it out.”
The Rudolfs credit Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Dr. Emeline Aviki, who finally connected the dots with doctor-ordered action.
“She said that girl needs to come up here now,” Carley Rudolf said. “We are going to save her life. I am going to remove every single piece of cancer she has.”
From beginning to end, it was 16 months.
“It was four surgeries in a short span of time, and it was an emotional roller coaster,” she said. “I was always on a plane somewhere getting surgery.”
Finally, on May 9, 2022, Carley Rudolf was deemed cancer-free. She said it could return, but for now she is cancer-free.
Unfortunately, due to the ovarian cancer, Carley Rudolf cannot have her own children.
“At the time I was 20,” she said. “I wasn’t thinking about a family any time soon. I was thinking I will never have a chance to carry my own kids which was really heartbreaking.”
But her mom will have no hesitation if her daughter decides she wants children.
“I even told her I will be your surrogate,” her mom said. “I have no problem, no question, whatsoever. I will immediately do it.”
That, too, is very rare that a mother would carry the daughter’s baby. Research shows the older you are ,the more risk there is to pregnancy.
Here’s the good news, following fertility treatments at Shady Grove Fertility, Carley Rudolf has been able to retrieve 15 eggs.
Said her mom: “We are all set. They are frozen. They are there whenever she chooses to use them. She can have her own baby.”
We spent the afternoon with Carley playing golf together at the Cavalier Golf & Yacht Club.
During the ride on the golf cart we asked her what got her through the ordeal,
“God got me through it all,” Carley said. “He gave me the strength that I needed to push through,” adding, “I never questioned why me? Anything could have happened to anybody, but as long as you have strong faith in God, you will get through it.”
Click this link to find out how you can join Onelife Fitness, Carley, and WAVY-TV at the Crush Cancer cycling for survival event. All money raised goes towards cancer research.