Ovarian Cancer Awareness
Posted by Catherine Morgan on October 7, 2008
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. So, I thought I would start this post with something I wrote about ovarian cancer, over a year ago. The Sad Reality of Ovarian Cancer. Why It’s Important To Know The Early Symptoms…
One of my saddest cases working as a nurse was on the oncology unit. I had a young woman as my patient (she was in her late twenties, only a few years older than I was at the time), and she had been diagnosed with end stage ovarian cancer. I had been working on the oncology unit for over a year, and many times patients came to my unit in the last few weeks or days of their lives, mostly so they could be given large doses of pain medication to keep them comfortable. Everyone knew these patients were coming in not to be cured, but to die. It was always hard and always sad, but this time the woman dying was so young.
Unlike many of my other patients, I would never get to know this woman. She would only live another few days, and during that time she would be mostly unconscious from all the medications. But even so, I will never forget her. What I remember most was the sadness that surrounded her, her family standing and sitting around the bed, just waiting for her suffering to finally be over. Among all of the darkness and grief, a little girl (maybe two or three years old) was happily playing and skipping in and out of her mother’s room, blissfully unaware. Every time I saw the little girl I thought how painful it must have been for her mother to know she would be dying and leaving her beautiful baby girl. How sad she must have been knowing she would miss all the important moments of her daughter’s life. And how sad it was going to be for that little girl, growing up without her mother, never getting to know her. How could something so unfair be happening to this family? It seemed unfathomable to me, but I was watching it happen with my own eyes, I couldn’t deny it. That was almost twenty years ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.
I didn’t know it then, but only a few years later I would come eerily close to being in a similar situation as that young woman. And it was the thought of not being there for my children that was the hardest thing to deal with. The thought of not being able to see my babies grow up (my son was 3, my daughter just 4 months), of not being able to be their mother, not being there for their birthdays, their graduations, and their weddings, not being there to protect them from the world…Those were the thoughts that haunted me, even more than any fear I might have had of dying.
I would need to have surgery quickly and have the tumor removed, only then would I find out if the cancer had spread. Even though I was referred to the best oncologist in the area, I knew the outcome wasn’t good if it had spread. I don’t think anyone (unless you have personally been through it) can understand the horror of being put under anesthesia, knowing that when you wake up you might be told you are dying.
The last thing I remember just before I was put under, was my doctor telling me that because I was so young he would try to save my uterus and one ovary. I told him I was blessed to have two beautiful children, and that the only thing that mattered to me was being able to be a mom to my children. I pleaded with him not to take any chances, if there was even a remote chance it had spread, to please take everything and not leave anything behind. At this point, I was crying, and I grabbed the doctor’s arm before he turned away to let the anesthesiologist finish putting me under…and I said; “Promise me, promise me you won’t leave anything behind.” I don’t remember what he said…I just remember waking up in the recovery room. I remember calling out to everyone who walked by, “good or bad, good or bad, good or bad?” I said it over and over, but none of the nurses would tell me anything. Moments later my doctor was again standing over me, and he told me that he was able to get it all, and that I was going to be okay. I asked him if he was sure, and he said he was sure. I would be one of the lucky 19% of patients diagnosed early enough to survive, but even more importantly, I would get to be a mother to my children.
There will be 22,430 new cases of ovarian cancer in the United States this year, and 15,280 women will die. Maybe awareness of these few early warning signs will help raise the percent of women who can be diagnosed early, and be successfully treated.
I want to add something today, that I didn’t mention when I wrote this original post…
The only reason my ovarian tumor was caught early, was because I had complications with my pregnancy. I had a history of ovarian cysts rupturing, and became pregnant right before I was scheduled to have a surgery to remove a large cyst on my right ovary. Instead of surgery, the doctor decided it would be best just to monitor the size throughout my pregnancy, and only operate if needed. About halfway through my pregnancy, they were unable to visualize the cyst. I was told it either had gone away on it’s own, or was just being hidden by the pregnancy. Since I was having no pain, I figured it was gone. But, to be on the safe side, after my daughter was born, the doctor ordered an ultra-sound.
During the ultrasound I convinced the technician to tell me if the cyst was still there, and she said it was. It wasn’t a big deal to me, I figured in a week or two the doctor would get the report and call me to tell me I had to have it removed. But, when I finally got the call from the doctor, he said it was no longer there. When I told him I thought the report he received might be wrong, because the technician had told me it was still there, he agreed to have the imaging company send him the pictures for his radiologist to review. He was sure that the technician was wrong, and angry because she should have never told me anything. Ironically, when he finally got back to me, it was the night I was going out to celebrate my birthday, September 22nd. He told me he had bad news…The fluid filled cyst had become a solid mass, that was making malignant changes.
Here are other women blogging about Ovarian Cancer Awareness…
From Charming Chick…
Do you know the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer? Currently there is no specific test for Ovarian Cancer, so all women should be aware of the symptoms in order to increase early detection.
According to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the most common symptoms include:
• Vague but persistent and unexplained gastrointestinal complaints such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
• Abdominal bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, and/or feeling of fullness
• Unexplained change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
• Unexplained weight gain or loss
• Frequency and/or urgency of urination
• Unusual fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• New and unexplained abnormal postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
To read more about Ovarian Cancer symptoms and risk factors, check out the Johns Hopkins Ovarian Cancer Center Excellence.
Jackie Carlin wrote – Ovarian Cancer…Our Family’s Story
If you’ve planned a wedding, you know how stressful it can be. Who’s sitting where? What do you mean hydrangeas are out of season? And a photographer costs HOW much?
Two-and-a-half years ago, I was in the throes of dealing with those very issues, which at the time seemed so huge, when our family was dealt a real issue. After spending two months planning and executing the perfect bridal shower for me, my future mother-in-law just wasn’t feeling herself. She was chronically exhausted, her stomach felt bloated and all of the sudden she had going-to-the-bathroom issues.
We all put it off to the stress of the wedding and the shower (she tended to stress out … A LOT!) but she just wasn’t getting better. A trip to the family doctor didn’t do much to help. He thought maybe she had developed irritable bowel syndrome or something similar. But the problems not only wouldn’t go away, they became worse. Fast forward one month, and my fiance, his father and me were at the hospital awaiting the results of her hysterectomy. The diagnosis? Advanced ovarian cancer. She was just 66 years old.
I always considered myself lucky because not only could I tolerate my future mother-in-law, I truly loved and respected her and best of all, enjoyed being with her. But over the next 18 months, I came to admire her more than anyone else I’ve ever known in my life. The courage, grace and dignity she showed in facing an unwinnable battle will stay with me forever.
The Shelton Family posted about The Ovarian Cancer Walk.
It was borderline chilly out there as the rain fell. It stopped about half way through, and after we all got to our cars it started back up and never stopped. Even rained all day today, too!
From Lis & D – Run For Her Life…
Saturday my mom, C, and I rolled out of bed to make it to the 8 am 2nd annual Susan Sandoval Run for Ovarian Cancer.
The Susan Sandoval Foundation for Ovarian Cancer was created to increase awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors for ovarian cancer as well as other gynecologic cancers (uterine, cervix, vulvar, vaginal and fallopian tube). The goals of the foundation are to educate and improve the care of women diagnosed with gynecologic cancers and focus on innovative research in this field. Susan Sandoval was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer in May 2005 and died May 2007, at the age of 50. She worked as a nurse at LDS and Primary Children’s hospitals for 21 years. She had many friends, talked passionately about patient care and rights, and had incredible strength within her to always look at the positive in life and make the best of every day.
Cancer is the physical scourge of our era. Often a person who initially spots one or more early indications will scurry to a physician seeking a comforting diagnosis. If the news doesn’t come back as hoped, a discussion of treatments is initiated. Cancers that are particular to women (e.g. breast cancer, ovarian cancer) have drawn a lot of attention and research funds during the past couple of decades.
This is good because ovarian cancer can have such a high mortality rate, it’s important that women be vigilant to watch out for possible ovarian cancer warning signs.
Because so many of the symptoms and indicators of the disease are often associated with other ailments, they can go unnoticed, reducing the chances for early diagnosis until after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
To learn more about symptoms and signs of ovarian cancer that you should watch out for, read on.
From Finding BonggaMom – Ovarian Cancer: Know Your Body, No The Symptoms…
We’re all familiar with the pink ribbon symbolizing Breast Cancer awareness. But did you know there’s a teal ribbon as well? I’ve just found out that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Why am I blogging about it? Because I’ve found out that lack of awareness is one of the two main factors contibuting to the late diagnosis of this “silent killer”. So join me and help spread the word:
* According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, about 20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease — and about 15,000 women will die from it.
Cindy Melancon Spirit of Survivorship Award
Hailing from Novi, Michigan, Carolyn Benivegna will be this year’s recipient in honor of her persistent advocacy for promoting awareness for ovarian cancer. Carolyn is an ovarian cancer survivor and the founder of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Florida-Gulf Coast. She then moved to Michigan when she made a great impact by working with Governor Jennifer Granholm to declare September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Carolyn and her husband were also recognized by The Henry P. Tappan Society from the University of Michigan for establishing an endowed Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at UM.
The Voice for Ovarian Cancer Research Award
Taking the trip from Woodbury, NJ will be Karen Mason. After being diagnosed at the age of 49, she quickly discovered that getting involved in the ovarian cancer community was a great coping mechanism. Last Fall Karen was invited to be a member of the Dept of Defense’s Integration Panel where proposals are chosen for funding by the Department of Defense’s Ovarian Cancer Research Program. She also serves as a patient advocate for the Fox Chase Cancer Center ovarian SPORE as a full participating member of their Institutional Review Board evaluating consent forms for clinical trials. Karen is continually involved with NED (no evidence of disease) and is a part-time ICU nurse, wife and mother of two sons.
Journey: A Letter 2 Ovarian Cancer…
I spent most of today at a minority health fair in Orlando sponsored by Tom Joyner’s, Take a loved one to the doctor day. I worked with the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Florida, a wonderful group of woman who have made tremendous strides in spreading awareness all across central Florida..and for whom I am so glad I had in my corner.
From Secret Women’s Business – New Treatment For Endometrial Cancer
An article in the Record published by Washington University In St. Louis today about a new approach to the treatment of Endometrial Cancer (Cancer that invades the uterine wall) is wonderful news for many women. Endometrial Cancer is the most common Gynecological cancers in the US. The article states that 40,000 women will be diagnosed with this type of cancer this year and 7,500 of those women will die of the disease according to the American Cancer Society.
From Laugh at Cancer Support…
Women of all ages….Listen to your body! Don’t forget to schedule
your yearly pap-smear appointment, if you haven’t done so already! Talk to your
doctor about screening you for ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. Too many
women are slipping through the cracks and GYN cancers are killing our grandmothers,
mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and friends. Let’s stop it now! Tell
everyone you know, to schedule their annual checkups today. (Read more)
Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan at BlogHer Health & Wellness
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