What every woman needs to know
Ladies, women, sisters: here’s what you need to know about ovarian cancer. It is more lethal than any other cancer of the reproductive system. Ovarian cancer is rarely noticed until it’s quite far advanced, because its symptoms are precisely the kind that most women don’t particularly want to bother their doctor about. These symptoms include weight gain / figure changes, bloating, digestive upsets, and feeling full very soon when eating. Many women feel guilty about weight gain and don’t regard it as a medical issue, and digestive upsets also fall into that category: “Oh, I must be eating too much of the wrong kind of food, it’s my fault. I’ll just tweak my diet a little bit.” But this attitude can KILL YOU.
Run, don’t walk, to your doctor if you have these symptoms. My weight slowly increased by fifteen pounds over the last two years despite the fact that I averaged only 1500-1700 calories a day. I figured it was simply menopause altering my figure. I never seriously considered going to the doctor even after the bloating started, because I attributed the new symptom to a dose of heavy-duty antibiotics that I had just taken. I was eating less and less because I felt so full, but the weight still kept creeping up and my belly began to be visibly distended. At that point I went to my OB/GYN, who palpated my belly and felt nothing. A week later I was much worse. My personal doctor, an internist named Dr. Charles Rose, was the one who spotted a problem. He ordered a detailed ultrasound of my abdomen which showed a large mass about six-and-a-half inches long. By that time I could eat only a single hard-boiled egg each day because I felt so extremely distended, the same sensation you have after finishing a huge Thanksgiving feast. Who wants to eat anything when you feel this full?
The bloating was caused neither by intestinal gas nor by blockage. It was a buildup of ascites fluid, which indicates either imminent organ shutdown or malignancy. A week or so later I was in surgery during which the surgeons removed two liters of ascites fluid, two ovarian tumors and my diseased omentum. I’m now undergoing chemotherapy to attack the myriad microscopic cancer cells that remained after surgery, which were too small to see (a characteristic of my rare MMT cancer is the presence of “granular” cancer cells).
I’m not complaining, and in fact I’m in excellent spirits while I enjoy my second chance at life. My belief is that maintaining good spirits for as long as possible will undoubtedly enhance my own daily life as well as that of my husband, son and friends. I don’t want to let myself get depressed or angry or fearful, which would have a negative ripple-effect among those who I care for. I’m extremely grateful to be alive, and I thank Dr. Stehman and his excellent team up at IUPUI’s Simon Cancer Center.
But what do I do with the brief time I’ve been given? Statistically, the chemotherapy is likely to give me one to three more years of life before the MMT cancer recurs, and it’s bound to recur because it’s so aggressive. I believe that I should use some of the time I’ve been given to educate other women about the dangers of NOT going to one’s doctor when a weight-and-digestion issue appears. By the time those symptoms show up together, you’re already in late-stage cancer, with a less than one-in-three chance of living another five years. Time is of the essence, so don’t wait.
So I repeat: Ladies, women, sisters, Run, don’t walk, to your doctor ASAP if you experience weight gain and/or figure problems, a diminished ability to eat, digestive upsets and bloating. If one hundred women read this blog, I might have just now helped approximately three of them escape an early death. Think about it, and tell your women friends.
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