H-A-T-E is a four letter word at our house - literally and figuratively. :) Just last week I said, "Oh, Clayton, I just hate that you scraped your knee..." He immediately stopped crying to chastise me with, "Uuuummmmmm..... Mama, you said a BAD word!"
My point is that I don't use the word "hate" lightly.
But, I double, triple, quadruple, times infinity HATE cancer!
It has robbed me of 3 grandparents, 2 coworkers, and several of my favorite pediatric patients.
However, there is one form of cancer that, until recently, I didn't know much about.
On July 15th, a sweet friend came over, sat on my couch, and said, "Sarah, they think that I have ovarian cancer." We cried together and I hugged her and assured her that everything would be okay. But, on the inside, I was terrified for her.
I have to admit that I kinda "checked out" during the gynecological cancer lectures in nursing school. I knew that I wasn't planning to specialize in Women's Health. Also, I was 22 years old and the median age for the diagnosis of ovarian cancer is 63. The young and stupid version of myself filed that away under the long list of Things That Will Never Happen To Me...
However, it did happen to my dear friend. This friend is in AMAZING shape. She is 30 years old (4 months younger than I am!), and worked out pretty much daily before she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. She is in tip-top shape, which is why there is no doubt in my mind that she will beat this! She has handled MAJOR abdominal surgery, her first 2 rounds of chemo, and loosing her hair like a champ. She is such an inspiration to me! I'm in awe of her grace and strong spirit even in this trying time.
When my pal was diagnosed, I did what any good modern woman would do in this day and age - I read anything and everything that Google had to offer. For hours and hours I read about treatment plans, symptoms, risk factors, prognosis, etc. There was so much that I just didn't know!
September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness month. Since ovarian cancer, in particular, is near and dear to my heart right now, I will focus on that form of cancer. Here are a few facts:
- Ovarian Cancer is called the "silent killer" because its symptoms are often vague and subtle. My pal now realizes that she had symptoms for 2 years before diagnosis, but never felt that any one symptom was enough cause for concern to see a doctor. Like the rest of us, she was so busy taking care of everyone else, that she put herself last when it came to health care as well.
- One of the ways to make sure that ovarian cancer is diagnosed early, is to stay current with your annual exams. Those appointments are never fun, but they are definitely necessary. They truly could save your life!
- Report any unusual bloating, weight gain, or stomach irritation. If you are remotely concerned, tell your doctor! It's better to be safe than sorry in this case, for sure. I read that ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome in its early stages. So, be aware of that, and seek a second opinion if need be.
- There is no good blood test to diagnose ovarian cancer. The CA-125 test is a good marker, once someone has been diagnosed, to track their body's response to chemo. But, it is not useful for diagnosis. Ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed through sonograms, CT scans, etc.
- The chosen color for ovarian cancer awareness is TEAL. :) There is an organization called Teal Toes that encourages women to paint their toenails teal to spark conversations about ovarian cancer. I'm an sporting a lovely shade of teal right now and I love it! I am not really one to go for funky polish colors, so it definitely stands out to me. Every time that I catch a glimpse of my toes, I am inspired to say a prayer for my friend and all the other women who are battling ovarian cancer. Several friends have asked about my toes as well, and that has spurred on some good talks about symptoms and detection. What a fun way to spread awareness!
- If you live in the DFW area, this Saturday is the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's DFW Chapter's 10th Annual Run/Walk to Break the Silence of Ovarian Cancer. (Whoa - try saying that fast 3 times!!!) My friend is heading up a team that will be participating. The link to participate or donate is http://nocc.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=423308. Please contact me if you would like to join or donate specifically to my friend's team and I will get you the information. I have a previous commitment (that will also be super fun!), but I am bummed that I don't get to participate.