I don’t usually discuss the personal aspects of my life with the whole world wide web, but this is just too important, so listen up. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s time to Break the Silence. If you are a woman or have women in your life that you care about, please read and share this post.
In early 2007, my mom was diagnosed with primary peritoneal carcinoma, a cancer mostly commonly classified in the same category as ovarian cancer due to the similar prognosis and treatment. Fairly soon after her diagnosis, she had a tumor removed from her peritoneum (a membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal cavity) the size of a grapefruit and immediately began first line chemotherapy. During the chemo, she stopped working, lost a lot of weight and her hair. She was probably more sick than she let on, but she stayed positive. Six months later, she began to feel better, gained her strength back, and went back to work. Everything was great. And then in mid-2008, the cancer showed signs of its return. She went through several different second line chemotherapy drugs, but nothing seemed to help. On May 9, 2009, my mom passed away at the age of 59. Three years later, I still think about her and miss her everyday.
Few people know much about ovarian cancer, but it’s important to be aware of the basics. The symptoms are not specific (my mom had been feeling bloated for a while) and unlike breast cancer or cervical cancer, there are no early detection tests. Pap smears do not detect ovarian cancer. So while the five-year survival rate of women who are diagnosed early with ovarian cancer is high at 90%, only 19% of all cases fit that bill. For those diagnosed at an advanced stage, like my mom was, the survival rate is a low 30%. Ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of any cancer associated with the female reproductive system. And it can strike any age. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 22,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012; more than 15,000 women will die from the disease. (SOURCE)
The first step to battling this awful disease is to KNOW THE SYMPTOMS:
- Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
Other symptoms of ovarian cancer can include:
- Upset stomach or heartburn
- Back pain
- Pain during sex
- Menstrual changes
If any of those symptoms last for more than two weeks, please see your doctor. Remember, you must be your own advocate! After being dismissed as simply being obese, my mom went through a few doctors before she was diagnosed correctly. I should also add that she was no medical neophyte. My mom was a registered nurse who worked in a hospital for more than 30 years. (SOURCE)
Now that you know the symptoms, here’s what else you can do. Make a donation to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, whose mission is “to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The Coalition is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer.” Dylan and I just did the 5K Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer a few weeks ago and raised more than $250, thanks to my awesome friends who gave their financial support.
If you need more incentive than a tax deduction to donate, how about buying make-up? Laura Mercier has launched a special Ovarian Cancer Fund and have created two special products for the cause, a blush palette and lip gloss. 100% of the sales of these two items go straight to the Ovarian Cancer Fund. Buy make-up and support a great cause? Who doesn’t love that?
Remember, ovarian cancer can affect you and the women in your lives. Know the symptoms and please share the message.