I can remember only one part of my prayer that day in early 2009. It was my daughter's birthday. I remember asking God, "Please! Don't let me die on my daughter's birthday!"
She and my hubby and my other daughter and family members stood beside me as the hospital staff prepared to wheel me into surgery. This was to be a debulking surgery, as they call it, for ovarian cancer. My cancer was not contained in a solid tumor...instead, it was spread throughout my abdominal cavity in little nodules covering the surface of nearly everything. When the surgery was over I would have a long line of 43 metal staples top to bottom, zipping my abdomen back together.
My Gyno/Onc had removed numerous parts of my internal apparatus. Then he carefully removed my intestines and stripped their surface, looking for and removing cancer residue. He scraped the surface of my liver, removing more of the same. When he had removed every particle he could reach (95 percent of the cancer tissue) he carefully replaced my intestines and closed. (I'm still not certain he didn't tie my intestines like so many balloons into some outlandish party display for the nurses! It surely felt that way for months afterward!)
I've learned more than I want to know about ovarian cancer in the past 20 months...the multiple kinds of chemo/radiation/surgery that ovarian patients may have to endure...the abysmal survival rates (especially for those diagnosed late stage; which most are)...the importance of having the debulking done by a Gyno/Onc rather than an "ordinary" surgeon...the so-often very short times of "remission" between one series of chemo and the next.
I've learned that the difficulty of diagnosing OVCA means that most women are diagnosed when their cancer is already advanced...meaning treatment is much less likely to provide long-term survival. Early detection is difficult but it is so important!!!
I've learned that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and I'm dismayed that so many know so little about ovarian cancer, its silent symptoms and its difficulty in being diagnosed.
So on this last week in September I want to remind the ladies amongst my readers of the nearly silent symptoms of ovarian cancer. (I don't care how old or young you may be...Pay attention to your bodies!)
Ovarian Cancer Symptoms (from the Nat'l Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Inc.)
1. Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort
2. Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
3. Frequency and/or urgency of urination (day or night) in the absence of an infection
4. Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or feeling of fullness
5. Ongoing unusual fatigue
6. Unexplained changes in bowel habits.
(If symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, ask your doctor for a combination pelvic/rectal exam, a CA-125 blood test, and transvaginal ultrasound.)
It's a fine line between paranoia and persistent "listening to your body". But Ladies! Pay attention. Listen for these so-called "silent" symptoms and be aware of your body.