The month of March 2017 is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month; a good time to confess that my relationship with ovarian cancer is dysfunctional. My relationship with all cancer is challenging (due to the untimely deaths of several very dear family members) but ovarian cancer is the demon that I should have dealt with years ago. Our first encounter was in my late twenties and I can remember that day as if it was yesterday.
A relative of mine was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when she pregnant; it was spotted at a routine ultrasound scan. She was treated and went into remission. Then it came back and she died of a stroke when she was thirty years old. Cancer patients have a higher chance of having a stroke. I didn’t know that. I do now.
We were not particularly close, not much more than acquaintances, but her death affected me profoundly. I was also a young mother by this time. I attended her funeral a few months after giving birth to my eldest child. I just about managed to watch her two little girls (one carried in her father’s arms because she was too little to walk) drop roses onto her coffin as it was lowered into the ground. You don’t forget a scene like that very easily. I have never forgotten it. I never will.
And so it began. My unhealthy obsession with this disease that kills 11 women every day in the UK.
There have been several occasions when I have managed to convince myself and all those around me that I have ovarian cancer. I have had my friends googling symptoms and ringing me to check them off one by one only to find that I didn’t really have any of them but that was of no comfort to me! I have sobbed in GP surgeries. I have paid for private ultrasound scans because I knew that I simply could not wait the 5 weeks for an NHS appointment and still retain my sanity. So far, this disease has spared me but I will not drop my guard.
I know the list of symptoms and I am watching out for them.
Ovarian cancer awareness month
So, this month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and I don’t need it but you probably do and so this is for you.
This disease is something that midlife ladies in particular need to be aware of – although as my story illustrates young woman can also be affected. The symptoms are
- pelvic or abdominal pain
- increased abdominal size/persistent bloating
- difficulty eating/feeling full quickly
- needing to wee more urgently or more often
If you, or a lady you know, suffers from these more than 12 times in a month it needs to be checked out. Other symptoms like unexplained weight loss, change in bowel habits, extreme fatigue and post-menopausal bleeding should also be investigated by a GP.
The earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the better a woman’s chances of achieving a positive outcome.
Please share with the ladies in your life who need to know this.