Sitting at the table with my fellow Brownie friends, I remember hearing an unexpected knock at the door. My mom interrupted our troop meeting to pick me up early. She whispered something to the leader. They exchanged sympathetic looks and touches.
I was only in fourth grade, but I knew something was awry. On the car ride home, my mom explained that she would be going to the hospital that evening because her doctor believed she had a tumor.
Two weeks later, surgery revealed a grapefruit-sized tumor protruding from her right ovary into her uterus, as well as other inflammation and nodules throughout her abdomen and bowels. She underwent a hysterectomy on the spot.
I’ll also never forget watching my dad and sister talk with the surgeon in the hall. The verdict was in: ovarian cancer.
After six months of chemotherapy and the inital diagnosis of stage 3 being demoted to stage 2, my mom’s CA125 tests results remained in “normal” levels. Weeks led to months led to years. Ten years later, the doctors finally termed her “in remission.”
My mom kicked ovarian cancer’s ass.
Family Tree Troubles
Ovarian cancer can be a hereditary disease so its presence in my life is a thought tucked in the back of my mind, especially when any abnormalities occur in my regular cycle or with digestive issues. Yet, the best approach to beating ovarian cancer is better awareness of the disease and a heart-to-heart with your physicians.
Sometimes dubbed “the silent killer,” ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnsos because an early detection test does not exist. Thus, explaining why 60 percent of women diagnosed with the disease are already in stage 3. According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), based right here in the DFW metroplex, “More than 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cnacer each year, and approximately 15,000 women die annaully from the disease.” Those are not comforting numbers.
So what’s a gal to do?
Know the Symptoms
By better understanding your risk and monitoring any symptom manifestations, your chances of you and your doctor catching ovarian cancer early on are increased.
Ovarian cancer can present with any combination of these most common (but not exhaustive list of) symptoms:
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Digestive issues
- Menstrual changes
- Feeling the need to urinate often or urgently
- Pelvic/abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
- Sudden weight gain
The NOCC website offers clear, concise, and uber helpful information regarding ovarian cancer–its symptoms, myths about the disease, treatment, support, etc. Check out the Get the Facts Q&A; How to Talk to Your Doctor; and the Know Your Risk video. It’s also interesting to take the Test Your Knowledge: Ovarian Cancer Quiz.
Support the Cause
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and here’s how you can show your support: Bring up the topic with friends. Share this post on social media. Wear teal. Donate to research. Champion a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a co-worker who is battling the disease.
Another great way to become involved is to participate–in any way–in the upcoming Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer this Sunday, September 21 beginning at 7:00 a.m. (registration) at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Although online registration is closed, onsite registration is welcomed and encouraged. Run/walk or donate or volunteer–or bring your family to the sidelines to cheer on the competitors.
This is a fight we’re in together, ladies; let’s do all we can to raise awareness and rally for effective testing and a cure!
Has gynecological cancers affected your family? If so, please share your story below to educate and encourage others.