As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
Last month, I started a new series of blog posts based on real life experiences. Today’s post is one that I’ve put off all month. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and I’ve been staging a #tealtakeover on social media. But, actually putting my experience with Ovarian Cancer out there – as the main part of a post – well, that’s hard to do. But, for the sake of #ovariancancerawareness, I’m going to try. . .
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Here is Mayo Clinic’s description:
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries. Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the uterus. The ovaries — each about the size of an almond — produce eggs (ova) as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Ovarian cancer often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen. At this late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and is frequently fatal. Early-stage ovarian cancer, in which the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated successfully.
Surgery and chemotherapy are generally used to treat ovarian cancer.
Some symptoms to watch out for according to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:
There is no screening method for early detection for ovarian cancer. The symptoms of the disease are vague, and are not always gynecologic. But research shows that women with ovarian cancer often report having the following symptoms:
- A swollen or bloated abdomen, increased girth. Some women notice that their pants or skirts are getting tight around the waist. The bloating is a sign that fluid, called ascites, is building up in the abdominal cavity in later stage disease
- Persistent pressure or pain in the abdomen or pelvis
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary concerns, such as urgency or frequency
- Change in bowel habits with new onset constipation and/or diarrhea
Unexplained vaginal bleeding
*If you are experiencing ANY of these symptoms and they persist for over 2 weeks, PLEASE call your doctor!
One hot July day in 2009, my best friend Sue called me and told me that it hurt when she laid down on the floor to interact with her girls. She said she could feel a lump in her abdomen and asked if I thought this was normal. Of course, I said “no” and urged her to call the doctor. She did. And, the next thing I knew, she was calling me with the news that she had cancer.
I jumped in my car, trying to stay calm (mostly for her sake) and rushed to her house to be with her. Over the next several months, I spent a great deal of time with her – at her house, at her chemo treatments, and by her side in the hospital.
She wasn’t crazy about the first oncologist that we saw, so she went for a second opinion and found a doctor that she really felt a connection with. His best suggestion was to have a full hysterectomy and start chemo treatments. I remember him coming out to the waiting room after the surgery and feeling quite confident that he got all the cancer (the tumor was the size of a large cantelope, he said).
When Sue’s hair started falling out, she called me. I ran over to her house again and we cried together. A few days later, I went with her to a local beautician who trimmed it all off.
That fall, she was declared cancer free. One evening, we went out to celebrate together with shopping and a visit to Dunkin’ Donuts. At that time, she told me that she felt really tired and her back was really hurting her.
Not long after, we found out that her cancer had returned. The doctor recommended a more invasive chemotherapy treatment, which she gladly tried.
But, it wasn’t enough. Sue lost her battle to ovarian cancer on March 5, 2010.
Sue left behind a husband and 2 young daughters. How do you even explain to a child while their Mommy had to die? I know I sure don’t know, as I was having enough trouble justifying it for myself. I remember talking to her husband one day a few months after Sue had passed away – I told him that I was sure it would be easier for him to find a new wife than it would be for me to find a new best friend. He agreed. He’s been married now for a few years. I have lots of friends; but there hasn’t been another one that I feel that same connection with (I wonder if there ever will be – or if I want there to be).
How I’m Dealing with It
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Sue. I still miss her. I still want to pick up the phone and call her!
I try to help promote Ovarian Cancer Awareness as much as possible (which is where the #tealtakeover idea came from). They call it a “silent cancer” – often, it creeps up on a woman and she doesn’t realize it until it’s too late. Since my experience with Sue, I’ve heard of so many other special ladies losing their battles with this awful disease. I want to always be a voice to remind women that there’s more to life than just pink.
I was standing in church just last week thinking about how Sue and I used to sing together. We started singing together after I had a near death experience (another #reallife story that I’ll be sharing some week). That finally gave me the nerve to sing in public – something I had always wanted to do. We sang together for many years – at our own church, at other local churches, we even did the Star Spangled Banner one year for the town carnival. I thought, at the time, that Sue was the one who gave me the courage to sing in public and that she was doing it for me. Now, as I look back, I think maybe it could have been the other way around. Maybe she needed me to sing with her. And now that she’s gone, I don’t think I can do it anymore. I’ve often wanted to sing with Ashley, but I just don’t feel like I can. Maybe it’s silly, but it’s where I’m at right now.
There is so much more I could tell about Sue, about our experience with ovarian cancer, and about where I am today as a result. If you’d like to talk further, feel free to contact me.
What About YOU?
Please, I urge you, ladies. . . go for your annual exams and talk to your doctor about ANY concerns that you may have. I know how easy it is to just push your own issues aside because you’re busy with other things – but I have seen the effects of this awful disease and I don’t wish it on ANYONE.
Help me spread Ovarian Cancer Awareness by using the hashtag #tealtakeover on all your social media channels.
If you have experienced ovarian cancer, I’d love to hear your story.
Please leave a comment, or feel free to e-mail me privately.
Also, if you have a life experience that you feel would be beneficial to share with others,
I’d love to consider your guest post on my blog. Contact me!