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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It’s September…How Are Your Ovaries?

September 1, 2010 at 11:52 AM (Awareness) (, , , , , , )

I’m reading a book about how making split-second decisions from the gut can be just as effective (and in some cases, more so) as examining copious evidence and making logical, scientific decisions over time.

Wish I’d known that in 2005. Maybe then I would have listened when my body started shouting at me. “Hey! You’re tired! More so than the average mom-of-two-little-boys!” “Yo! Down here! You’re not gaining weight, you’re bloated!” “Run, don’t walk, to the bathroom – bladder pressure overload.” And “No, it’s not the protein bars – your bowels are NOT happy.”

All symptoms of ovarian cancer. Classic symptoms, as a matter of fact. Like, textbook. But I was sure that there were logical explanations for all of the things that were going wrong with my body, including the pelvic pain, which I convinced myself was a functional cyst, since it hurt worse when I was ovulating.

If I’d known more about what the symptoms of ovarian cancer were, if I’d known that HALF the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are under age 60, I might not have convinced myself that I was too young and healthy to have anything really wrong with me. I might have gone to see my doctor in December, when I first noticed things feeling…different. Nothing I could really put my finger on, but my instincts recognized changes before my rational brain did.

Over 21,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010. 13,000 will die from the disease. I’ll fight that second number, but I need your help with the first one. Let’s increase our vigilance about ovarian cancer, even as we lobby for research funding and to get more doctors to take our symptoms seriously.

Let my 20/20 hindsight help you or a woman you love be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, so you (or she) will get checked out by a gynecologist as soon as you experience them, and get treated early enough to get on the 85% five-year survival side of the statistics, instead of the 35% side where I am.

I know I make ovarian cancer look good, but this is one club you do NOT want to join. Tell a friend. Or thirty.

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