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What every woman needs to know

June 4, 2014

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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  1. Mary R. permalink

    Thanks, Carrol. I’m linking your article on fb and sending it to my female friends who don’t do fb.

  2. Laurie Bramhall permalink

    You never cease to amaze me Carrol……..

  3. Bernadette Tilger permalink

    Carrol…you are my hero. Love you and think of you every day.

  4. Views of this blog just now exceeded one hundred. It is statistically likely that three of those one hundred women readers will develop ovarian cancer. I fervently hope that they will recognize the symptoms earlier than I did, and escape an early death.

  5. William Krause permalink

    Carrol, I’ve forwarded this to Linda Vaughan, Joan Smith & Rhonda. We’re proud of you in so many ways. Dad

  6. Dear Carrol,
    Your Dad, who is a dear friend from Cooper days, sent me what every woman needs to know. And with it I have linked back to your blog, housesandbooks. So I have spent the afternoon enthralled and impressed with your writing, your courage and your tremendous optimistic outlook on life. I cheer you on in your search for health. Wish you joy and love every day of your life. From all the comments I have read, I can see that you have spread love and joy to every soul who counts you as a friend.
    Hugs to you Carrol,
    Joan Gillman Smith

    • Thanks so much, Joan, for reading my blogs and sending me such kind words! It’s this very thing that keeps me fueled right now. Best wishes to you and your family! hugs, Carrol

  7. Carrol- This information, coming from a personal viewpoint, is so needed and appreciated. Thank-you. Linda

  8. Diann Lock permalink

    Thank you Carol. I will send this on to all my women friends. You are a spark that needs to be kindled. – Hugs, Diann

  9. Reblogged this on Aquila's Place and commented:
    I believe this is important. It’s too easy to ignore these symptoms. Better to annoy your doctor(s) than just assume it’s nothing much.
    You never know for sure until you have it checked out.

  10. Reblogged on Aquila’s Place. All the best.

  11. Many thanks for reblogging! More than six hundred women have read this so far. I appreciate your help very much, Aquila.

  12. Thanks for sharing this important information. I’ve known two women, in recent years, who’ve dealt with this form of cancer. Sadly, one of them succumbed this past May. May I wish you well in your recovery and on your journey to educate. … Be well, Dorothy 🙂

    • Thank you for reading, Dorothy, and for the kind words! I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I’m doing my best to educate my community about the warning signs, but unfortunately the signs show up extremely late in the progress of the disease. Even so, I first noticed my own symptoms a year ago and did nothing because I considered it a figure-issue, not a health issue. I wish I knew then what I know now!
      all my very best to you,

  13. Never would have thought about this. Thanks for sharing!

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