I so wanted to do this blog post in the month of September for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month but my emotions wouldn’t let me. Every single time I sat down to write this piece I just couldn’t. I felt like I should have known, should have had better conversations with my OB/GYN, and really this part is emotional for me. It’s everything I ignored for such a long time, never acknowledged, and the foolish thought that cancer would discriminate against me. What a fool I was.
If you are a woman or have a mother, wife, sister, girlfriend, or a friend that is a woman I urge you to read this piece in it’s entirety, educate yourself and others on the symptoms is all I ask. A pap smear will not and does not detect ovarian cancer, knowing the symptoms does. There is no reliable routine screening test for ovarian cancer. Routine pap smears and pelvic exams are recommended. Sometimes a pelvic exam can help diagnose ovarian cancer but it should not be the only thing that you rely on. I will take you through each symptom below.
1. Abdominal bloating, indigestion or nausea. If you are like me you could likely chalk this up to being a woman. We all know that once a month we get bloated, but if you experience all three it’s time to talk with your doctor. Also, if you experience these persistently you need to talk with your doctor. For me, I had the bloating frequently and I also had unexplained indigestion that I did not have prior. You know what I chalked that up to? I thought it was just a part of getting older, don’t make assumptions when it comes to your health.
2. Changes in appetite, such as a loss of appetite or feeling full sooner. Yep, I had this one too and you know what I thought it was, stress. I had a number of work stresses that I chalked this one up to. I had a new position at one point that I was maneuvering through which the phrase, careful what you wish for, rang true for me, coupled with a boss early in 2016 that I absolutely disliked working for, a commute that was longer than I was used to, and a company change after 9 years. Stress was an understatement for me and it was easy to think that’s why I often didn’t feel like eating dinner.
3. Pressure in the pelvis or lower back. This one is almost laughable for any female. Cramps anyone? Ovarian cysts anyone? I was plagued with both and I was no stranger to these two. These two were also the reason I called the oncologist last week and was hospitalized overnight. I no longer and never will ever chalk this up to being a woman like all of us females have. If you have persistent pelvic pain and lower back pain, do not hesitate and call your doctor for a consultation.
4. A more frequent or urgent need to urinate and/or constipation. I don’t know about you but for me I couldn’t recall what normal was for me and I never took the time to know what was regular for me. And I have had two kids, there is no constipation that compares to being pregnant, all you mommas know what I am talking about! So when a doctor would ask me I quickly said, “nope.” My answer on this should have been yes in thinking back.
5. Changes in bowel movements. No one likes talking about their poop, I certainly am one of them. What I have learned is that it is totally necessary. This would have been a yes for me as well if I had been honest but I never answered this honestly. I didn’t want to talk about my bowel movements. If I had known that it could have been the difference of stage 1 or 2 versus stage 3 for me I would have talked about my bowel movements.
6. Increased abdominal girth. This is the one of the two symptoms that I did not have. I had been a comfortable size 4 for a very long time and no noticeable changes to that for me. I worked hard for that size 4 after two kids, three half marathons, being a consistent runner, and working my core were routines for me. This symptom never showed up for me.
7. Tiredness or low energy. What woman in their 30’s isn’t tired? It does not matter how much you say, “30 is the new 20,” you will never have the stamina you did in your 20’s. I have two young girls to chase after, a house to keep clean, a career, grocery shopping, errands to run, and a husband to keep in line, what is there to not to be tired from? Did I mention laundry?? In all seriousness if I had been honest with myself I would have told you that I was more tired than normal. Don’t be me and think it’s just about age, be real with yourself.
8. Changes in menstruation. This is the only other symptom that I did not have because I had an IUD. We were done having kids and having stage 4 endometriosis coupled with ovarian cysts the IUD was a life saver for me in regards to minimizing pain for the most part. I also didn’t have menstruation cycles and what woman would not rejoice in that.
Know these symptoms and please talk with your doctor about them, don’t dismiss them like I did! Share these with every single female you know, you don’t know whos life you would be saving! Many credible sites will tell you that if you are younger that they should be kept in perspective as the average age for being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is between the ages of 55 to 64. I sit here at the age of 34, diagnosis at the age of 33 to remind you that cancer, even ovarian cancer, does not know your age, it does not know if you have young kids, or if you are in the prime of your career, it does not know you ethnicity, or if you have a family history of it. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Education is the only defense.
These symptoms will forever be burned into my memory, will haunt my thoughts of the conversations I should have had with my doctor, and the honesty I should have had with myself. I also have to give myself a break because I didn’t know the symptoms a year ago like I do today. I only came to learn the symptoms after hearing the words, “you have ovarian cancer,” uttered in my direction. I will never forget sliding down the end of our bed, hitting the floor with the phone in my hand after hearing those words. The paralyzing feeling of being blind sided, being foolish enough to think it wouldn’t happen to me.
Raise those cabernet glasses and share the hell out of this blog post, you might not need it but someone out there just might!