Just several days earlier, on April 23, 2007, my Aunt Martha died from Ovarian Cancer at the age of 53. The days leading up to this event were difficult. Our wounds were fresh, our spirits shaken, and we hadn't yet had proper time to grieve. Our grief was still very real and extremely apparent to everyone in attendance. But then again they all had stories similar to ours. Some were still battling, some in remission, others lost loved ones...in this group our story was not unique. They knew what we were going through and could empathize whole-heartedly.
But regardless of how much support you have, nothing can make you feel whole again. Looking at my aunt’s daughter, her sisters, her mother, nieces and friends I knew we all felt similar pain and were holding back the tears (or at least trying) through every speech, every story, and every prayer during that tea party. But despite how difficult and painful it was to be there we were becoming involved in something very important. Something bigger. This group of women were devoting themselves to raising awareness of Ovarian Cancer. Raising awareness for this particular cancer is important for many reasons.
First, Ovarian Cancer has very subtle symptoms, almost all of which can be easily blamed on lifestyle, hormonal changes, or other factors.
Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
-Abdominal Swelling/Bloating/Clothes Too Tight
-Abdominal/Pelvic Pain or Pressure or Feeling "Full"
-Gastrointestinal Symptoms (such as gas, indigestion, nausea, or changes in bowel movements)
-Vaginal Bleeding or Discharge
-Urinary Problems - Urgency, Burning, or Spasms
-Fatigue and/or Fever
-Pain During Intercourse
The subtly of the symptoms often result in misdiagnosis. Diagnosing it correctly can take months. Only a specific blood test, CA-125, along with a pelvic exam and a transvaginal ultrasound, will alert the doctor of the danger of Ovarian Cancer. These tests will not be performed at an annual OBGYN visit or physical. Chances are you will have to ask for them.
So the symptoms are subtle and diagnosis is difficult but there is another dangerous aspect to Ovarian Cancer: IT IS INCREDIBLEY COMMON. 1 in every 55 women will have Ovarian Cancer. Think about your high school, your workplace, and your family... The fact of the matter is YOU know someone who will have Ovarian Cancer.
Because of these things it's necessary to educate woman on how silent and deadly this disease is. Teach them the symptoms and encourage them to be their own advocate with their doctors. If caught early you can beat it. You just have to listen to your body and stand up for yourself. Too many women, my aunt included, don't know they have Ovarian Cancer until it's far too late.
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. It's also the month my Aunt Martha was born. She would have been 57 this year.
Tell somebody. You may save a life.