Today is a Gift. That’s why we call it the present.
This post is in memory of my friend Sarah who died of advanced ovarian cancer and of all other women taken too soon by ovarian cancer.
This post is also in honor of all women around the world who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and are currently living with the disease, whether currently in treatment or in remission.
A week after my 59th birthday, after having several of the ovarian cancer symptoms for several months, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor. She suspected something was going on and sent me for a CT scan the next morning. As soon as she had the results of the scan she called to tell me there was a large tumor on my left ovary and it might be ovarian cancer. Six days later I was in surgery.
A few weeks after the surgery I received the diagnosis of stage 2B ovarian cancer and began 9 months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. There were a few bumps in the road that delayed two of my treatments but when I was finished I was in remission. I will continue to see my gyn/oncologist every six months for the rest of my life. So far, I have not had a recurrence. I am grateful every day that my cancer was discovered early.
Many women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed after the cancer has spread. Only a small percentage of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at an early stage like I was. Those diagnosed early have a much greater chance of survival.
I was lucky that my primary care doctor recognized a need for an immediate CT scan and blood tests. I was lucky my gyn/oncologist could perform the surgery just a few days later. I was lucky my treatments began soon after my diagnosis.
I have so many people to be grateful for who helped me through my cancer journey – all the doctors, nurses and technicians in the hospital, my husband Henry who never left my side and took care of me every day, my children who put their lives on hold to be with me for my surgery and during treatments. I’m grateful for every card, gift, phone call, and visit from my friends, for the friends who came on the hottest day of the year to work in our yard, and for all the meals that friends brought over. I am grateful for all the prayers, some from total strangers.
This journey taught me a lot of things. I learned that a positive attitude is everything. I learned that with determination I can do anything. I learned that I have more friends than I ever imagined. I learned that prayer works wonders. I learned that I am stronger than I ever thought.
Most cancer survivors I have met say that the cancer changed them. I have to agree with that. I look at the world differently now. I learned I have to let things from the past go. I have learned not to worry about things I can’t control. I have learned to enjoy life every day and to appreciate the little things. I have learned that life is too short to put things off. I’ve learned to appreciate the gift of every day.
Here’s one last reminder of ovarian cancer symptoms. Remember, there is no test to detect ovarian cancer.
For for the last few years, each September during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month I have shared my story with others, passed out ovarian cancer symptom cards, and have participated in walks to help support ovarian cancer awareness. This year there are virtual walks all over the country.
Having an actual walk really brought attention to ovarian cancer in our area. The television and newspaper coverage of the event reached many people in the community. The event brought many women living with ovarian cancer together and there were many supportive family members and friends walking with us.
There was no walk in Savannah this year but Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month was recognized at a city council meeting and volunteers tied teal ribbons around trees in Forsyth Park to Turn the Towns Teal.
This year I am dedicating the month of September to ovarian cancer awareness.
Ovarian Cancer is sometimes called “the silent killer” because the symptoms are vague and many women aren’t diagnosed with ovarian cancer until it has spread. A woman’s chance of survival is much higher if the cancer is caught at an early stage.
To learn more about Ovarian Cancer I have included a few links:
It is important that women know some of the factors that may increase their risk of developing ovarian cancer. If a woman has any of these risks, it doesn’t necessarily mean she will get it. It just means she is at higher risk than the general population.
If there is a known history of ovarian, breast, or colon cancer in a family, it may be a good idea to ask your doctor about genetic testing. After her mother died of ovarian cancer, Angelina Jolie brought the BRACA gene into the news when she tested positive for one of the mutations and had preventative surgery.
Ten years ago I was a newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patient just beginning my treatments. The only risk factors that increased my chance of getting it were my age (59 at the time of diagnosis) and being post-menopausal. The only person in my family that I knew of who had cancer before me was my maternal aunt who had breast cancer.
A few years after my treatments were finished, I saw a genetic counselor and was tested for the BRACA1 and BRACA2 genetic mutation. My test was negative. A later genetic test found I was positive for Lynch Syndrome which can make a person at higher risk for colon, ovarian, and some other cancers.
So why did I get ovarian cancer? I will probably never know the answer to that.
I just know that every morning I am grateful to wake up above ground. Every day is a gift!
This year I am dedicating the month of September to ovarian cancer awareness. Look for more Teal Tuesday posts.