Two years ago today my sister and I sat with my mother, mentally holding hands if not physically, waiting for my mother's doctor to come in the room and explain the pathology report. We'd been waiting for the "official word" since getting such good news on the day of Mom's surgery.
The doctor didn't disappoint. Stage 1C. Only stage C because the tumor ruptured either right as they were going in or shortly before. It had a slightly "deflated" look the Doctor had told us, like a balloon losing air. It meant instead of Stage 1A, she'd be a C.
My mom was still a bit stunned about all of it and not quite believing "good" news was at hand. Should we have been more pushy? Should we have advocated my mother get a second opinion, no matter how much she loved her doctor? I don't know. We'll never know. The doctor who had so confidently told my mother "If we can cure anyone, we can cure you" has moved to Vermont. Trust me - this is not a doctor bashing post. We all liked my mother's doctor very much and still strongly believe she did every single thing she possibly could to battle my mother's cancer. It doesn't stop the mind from running through a list of questions on occasion that it probably shouldn't, though. We can't change the outcome now, we can only share what we have learned in the hopes that someone else in the same situation WILL ask the pushy questions, WILL advocate for that second opinion.
Nineteen months later we were burying the woman the doctor was so confident she could cure. And hence I get to the reason for my post.
October is breast cancer awareness month. Did you know that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? No? I didn't either - and my mother died of ovarian cancer. I am aware of it now and I am starting to dabble in learning about this insidious disease that kills more women than are cured once diagnosed. Few women diagnosed with ovarian cancer beat it. Very few. Too few. I know - it is important to be aware of the risks of breast cancer, according to one article I read it is the 7th deadliest cancer.
I am also aware of the horrific agony a woman with ovarian cancer suffers. My mother was a beautiful, vibrant, laugh so loud her laugh almost hurt your ears kind of person. She would "go for a walk" that could take hours to finish. She'd spend some of her free time shopping in different places and she almost never bought something for herself. She'd spy something for someone else. Always.
As her cancer progressed, as the chemo ravaged her body even though it was almost totally useless, she became ashen and quiet, she almost never laughed. You'd get a smile but rarely a laugh. She spent the last few months of her life in her spot on the couch. Barely able to move. We'd make her get up and take a walk around the house. Her reward? A foot rub. A woman who literally logged more miles walking in her lifetime than a dozen breast cancer race for the cure walkers would log in 5 years of walking had to be coerced to take a walk around her 1800 square foot ranch home.
Where am I going with this post? To this place. I'm asking you to take some time, dig around - learn. Ovarian cancer is often silent, with symptoms many women pass off as other ailments. Progress is being made but it is oh so slow. It's a year away but next September I plan to do thirty days of ovarian cancer awareness. In the meantime, I'll write posts like this on occasion.
Cancer is ugly, no matter its type. People lose their battle against cancer every day. When we were going through this whole process I must have said a dozen times that I'm not the first person to lose my mother and I won't be the last. However...if just one woman starts wondering a bit about that upset stomach that never seems to go away, tied to that embarrassing gas that seems to have a mind of its own...it will be wonderful. If the statistics can be changed so the number of women who survive ovarian cancer becomes something other than appalling, it will be overwhelming.
And one last thing...if you have had your ovaries removed, please do not believe you do not need to watch out for gynecological cancers. Read this.