Every time my mom came from Mexico to visit me, we always went for a walk in the park. It was our thing. We shared a mutual admiration for the athletic bodies of the runners as they wisped by us. On this particular walk, she playfully joked about the new little belly paunch she was sporting. My mom is a thin woman; she has always been very active, so it was hilarious seeing a potbelly taking form on her small frame. We laughed as we pulled and stretched her t-shirt so that her belly appeared less noticeable. We cut our walk short when my mom, who had always been so full of energy, began feeling tired. In retrospect, the sudden change in her appearance and energy seems strange, but at the time, we didn’t pay it much attention. My mom was getting older so a little weight gain and a slight decline in energy seemed fair.
Two weeks later, my sister called me from Mexico to report that my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. I met the news with total shock. I mean, we had just spent fifteen days together. I didn’t notice anything strange.
Stage IV Ovarian Cancer? How come we didn’t catch this sooner?
When my mother got on the phone, I asked about the results of her annual pap smear and mammogram. She told me that she had completed all of her exams, but no one ever told her that she was sick. How could this be? I was furious and sad, and incredibly frustrated. What’s the point of taking those exams if not for early detection and intervention for diseases like this?
The truth is, very few people know they have Ovarian Cancer (OC) until is late. In my mom’s case, cancer had spread throughout her entire body before it was ever detected. She immediately waged war against the disease in her body, and she’s still fighting today. She has endured several surgical procedures, including a lung perforation to take in medication and chemotherapy through a catheter.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and I want to honor my mother’s fight by bringing attention to the facts:
- Ovarian Cancer is not diagnosed with regular Pap test. You need to ask for a special blood test designed to detect OC.
- Ovarian Cancer is called the “silent killer” because by the time symptoms are detected, often cancer has already spread and is difficult to treat it effectively.
- Woman with stage IV Ovarian Cancer have a five-year survival rate.
- Ovarian Cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women.
Don’t let the suffering of my mother, and countless women like her, be in vain. Join me in increasing awareness! Tell your daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, colleagues, bosses, neighbors and friends about this merciless disease. Let’s fight this war together and help other women to be safe, happy and healthy. Join an Ovarian Cancer run or walk in your area. Wear an awareness t-shirt, a blue ribbon, or bracelet. Break the silence!
Click here to learn more about Ovarian Cancer and find a run or walk in your area.