Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? Hmmmm….

September 22, 2011 at 10:43 PM (Awareness, Faith, Family, friends, Help, Karma, Real Life, Research, WTF, Zen) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. October, AKA “PinkTober”, is the month we think of Breast Cancer. And, apparently November is Lung Cancer awareness month. December? Not sure, but I’m sure there’s a cancer for that month, too. Don’t you think it’s a little ironic we try to remember different cancers on different months throughout the year?

I do.

On a Thursday in May 2006, Sarah was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. She was blown away. SHOCKED! Maybe if we’d paid more attention to Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month she might have checked earlier? Who knows. She used to say that sometimes she was a “stick-your-head-in-the-sand-when-something-bad-comes-up” kind of girl.

So, this September, I want to point out that any cancer can crop up at any time. It’s scary and an unfortunate reality we live with. During the five years Sarah fought her cancer, two other very dear friends died from their cancers – a melanoma and a rare sarcoma.

As Sarah became closer to a much larger community of men and women who were fighting all kinds of cancers, we lost even more new friends. BUT, we also gained many new fiends and most are survivors today. I’m counting our collective blessings for that.

The ovarian cancer thing really gnaws at me. Mostly because there’s stuff people should know and can do about it. The first thing you should ask is “what are the symptoms.” Because knowing them and paying attention to your body can save your life. Did you know that ovarian cancer goes undetected far too long, too often? It can be one of the most deadly cancers for women. Not because it’s not treatable, but because once it gets to stage 3 or 4 it’s much harder to treat and often returns over and over and over. The earlier it’s detected, the better the chances for long-term survival!

Okay, okay. I hear ya! Here are the symptoms:
– Bloating
– Pelvic or abdominal pain
– Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
– Urinary symptoms, such as urgent or frequent feelings of needing to go
– Feeling tired more than usual (not usually listed, but this was big for Sarah)

Early stage ovarian cancer CAN be detected via these symptoms. No doctor in their right mind is going to think you’re crazy for asking, especially if you say you’ve been having more than one of these symptoms.

This summer, after Sarah died, I heard many stories of woman getting checked because of Sarah’s story. Unfortunately, at least one was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The good news? They caught it early! And she’s being treated. If she hadn’t been checked she could still be wondering, and getting worse.

I’ve also heard stories of women who got checked and were given a clean bill of health. Taking the worry off their shoulders when they were feeling a little uneasy. Music to my ears (and I’m sure to theirs).

Earlier this spring, I went to my dentist and he saw a spot on my tongue. They said I needed a biopsy to be sure it was nothing dangerous. Whoa! This is my tongue we’re talking about. Kind of important! Yes, it freaked me out a little, but I knew I had to do it.

The surgery was a little painful, because they had to cut a small chunk out of my tongue. (During the painful stuff, I thought of Sarah for strength.) The spot turned out to be nothing, THANK GOD! And, the hole in my tongue healed up very quickly. There isn’t even a scar. Weird. But, best of all, I’m healthy, and not worried.

When you talk with your doctor, make sure you go armed with lots of questions. Ask whatever you want and don’t let them go until YOU are satisfied that YOU got what YOU need to know. Asking pointed questions about this stuff can save your life. If you don’t feel like you’re getting a satisfactory answer from your doctor – or they blow you off (yes, I have heard of this happening all too often) – then go see another doctor. I know! It’s a pain in the butt and takes extra time out of your busy day, but what are a few hours when you could be adding years to your life?

I’m sure Sarah would agree with me. She wished she’d gone to the doctor long before she actually did. She had reasons why she had held off. Things like just not wanting to deal with it. Or saying to herself “well, I’m young, I’m healthy, it couldn’t be anything bad.” And of course she was exhausted and didn’t really want to go see a doctor. I probably could have pushed harder, too. But, hindsight is 20/20.

On a Tuesday in May 2011, Sarah died. It was 5 years after she was diagnosed.

Now, in May or September, or any other month for that matter, make sure you remember the signs for ovarian cancer. Whether it’s you or a loved one, if there’s concern, go get it checked out. Better safe than sorry.

To close today, I would like to share a quick story from a friend, Dawna Leger Phillips, who recently said her own good-bye to Sarah while on a Buddhist retreat. Here are some of her words and a photo:

“The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya is located on the 600 acres of Shambhala. It is said, “anyone who approaches a Stupa with a pure heart and the intention to benefit others will receive its blessings.” On my last day at Shambhala, I walked to the Stupa and made a final offering. As I placed the Ovations for a Cure bracelet, which I had been wearing more times than not since Sarah’s death, on someone else’s offering of C3PO*, I spoke these words, “Sarah Sadtler Feather, wherever you are, may you rest in peace, may your heart be open and your body strong” and then I let her go, I let her be… It was not an attempt to forget about her but, instead, to detach myself from this part of my past and to simply let her be on her way and to let myself be more mindful of every present moment. This was one of the gifts given to me at Shambhala. I am learning to let go; to trust; to be gentler with myself and with others; to become more peaceful, tolerant and compassionate; and to be more present in the tiniest of moments that make up my big life… I’m still learning…”

Photo by Dawna Leger Phillips

*For those of you who knew Sarah, you will fondly recall her sense of humor and her love of fashion. You might also recall her boys’ love of Star Wars and her naming her home oxygen tank R2D2. I thought Sarah would find humor in the placement of my offering as a sash across C3PO. It is as if he’s saying, “Thank you! So long! May the force be with you!” 🙂

Thank you Dawna!  I agree.  May the force be with us all!

Much love,

Mr. Wonderful

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  1. Leslie Sorensen-Jolink said,

    You truly are wonderful. Thank you for the important reminders and for Dawna’s lesson in letting go without forgetting. And thank you for carrying on with The Carcinista. You do great honor to the spirits of Sarah and your father. Love, Leslie, with Scott

  2. Ada said,

    Thanks for the reminder. I have a friend who is having abdominal pain, I will take the time to call her tomorrow.I send you a hug. I send you my hopes that you and the boys are doing well.
    Much love

  3. kirsty said,

    I know that it’s little consolation for you and the boys, but Sarah’s words and spirit gave so much to us all, and continue to give us hope and inspiration. She will always be with us.

  4. Nancyspoint said,

    Mr. Wonderful,
    Thank you for writing this post. You are doing a marvelous thing by continuing to speak out about ovarian cancer. I’m sure Sarah would be very proud of you. Both of you made such a difference and are continuing to do so. Thank goodness your biopsy turned out alright. Thanks again from another blogger who misses Sarah. My best to you and your boys.

  5. patricia said,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and for reminding us just how in control WE are. May the force continue to be with you and your precious boys! ~patricia

  6. Dorry said,

    thank you

  7. Christine said,

    Very well said. It seems you have taken on Sarah’s talent for frank, motivating but always optimistic writing.

  8. Norma said,

    Thank you. Sarah is still giving through you. What a blessing!

  9. Gayle Sulik said,

    Mr. Wonderful,

    Many people are remembering Sarah this month, and the impact she had on so many people. Here is a link to “The Teal Before The Pink,” which references The Carcinista’s essay from last year, “Pinktober from a Teal Point of View.”


    All the best to you and your family.

    Gayle Sulik

  10. Kathi said,

    Thank you for this timely & poignant post. And making sure none of us forgets Sarah & what you all went through, so that perhaps others will be more aware of ovarian cancer. I’m relieved that your biopsy was negative!! Much love to you & the boys.

  11. Dodie said,

    Thank You so much for keeping Sarah’s blog going! I hope you and your sons are doing well.
    Thank You also for the inspiring post!

  12. Christina R said,

    Only one point of contention…many doctors *apparently in their right mind* ignore these symptoms all the time. This is why they are not held accountable. I experienced these symptoms for a year and was summarily dismissed by my doctor. If symptoms of any kind persist for more than 2 weeks and you are not getting answers, seek a second opinion. Your life may be at stake.

    • Sarah said,

      Hi Christina,

      Thank you for this comment. I agree with your point. There are many doctors who are considered to be in “right mind” and are allowed to ignore their patients. These are not good doctors. I have experienced doctors like this in my life and when I have, I’ve moved on to others. We all should do this – it will give them a wake up call, and will give the really good doctors the business they deserve.

      Thank you again.


      Mr. Wonderful

  13. Jackie said,

    dear Mr. Wonderful,
    I love reading your posts. Although I never met Sarah, i am so grateful for her and your candor, humor and generosity. Thank you for keeping this blog going. It matters, more than you know.

    with gratitude,

  14. Transformation, turning points and clarity in life. « The Carcinista said,

    […] Comments Dodie on Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month…Kathi on Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month…Norma on Ovarian Cancer Awareness […]

  15. Kathleen said,

    How in God’s good name, do you have the time to blog? I imagine you work and care for the kids. This is very impressive. I have thought about your family a lot over the past month. Starting a school year without Mom/Sarah must be another hurdle for your family. As always I will keep you in my prayers.

    God bless from the bible belt!

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