Food for thought
The Football Sized Cancer, Living Within Her.
“I can see my fat every day, so it's always on my mind. Cancer (Ovarian) usually goes undetected a period of time, therefore pushing the immediate concerns further to the back of my mind.”- MUM*
It's utterly astonishing that based on a “Women’s Health Survey” conducted by Jean Hailes Organisation (in 2016) in which 3000 women were studied, most were more worried about their weight, and obesity, then they did show some concern about cancers in general.
In saying that, another study from the same team in 2015 showed that the top 5 worries/concerns voiced by Aussie women included:
1) Healthy Living- Weight, obesity, body image, fatigue, ageing etc
2) Cancer- (mainly Breast and Ovarian Cancers)
3) Mental/Emotional Health- including depression, anxiety, dementia, stress Etc
4) Cardiovascular Health- relating to matters of the heart, high cholesterol, blood pressure
5) Sexual Health- Particularly painful sex.
Could you define what Ovarian Cancer is if asked by somebody who was completely unaware?
Firstly, what are the ovaries?
OVARIES: Females have two almond-sized gonads, which are a pair of reproductive glands that secrete hormones, and produce eggs (ova) over a lifetime.
Regularly releasing ova down a corridor from the ovaries, travelling down fallopian tubes, and ultimately implanting in the womb. The desired outcome is fertilisation/or menstruation and happens on average, once a month. If fertilisation occurs (a male's sperm successfully penetrating the implanted ova), it forms an “embryo”, this is then called a pregnancy. After a matter of weeks it attains a status of a “foetus”, and generally, after around 8-9 months time, a baby will be born. Creating, the miracle of life!! Women have an “ovary” on each side of their uterus, with the plural form of the pair being: “ovaries”.
OVARIAN CANCER: Can be described as the cancer of the ovaries generally speaking. When the ovaries are subjected to abnormal cell growth, in either one or both sides, if left unnoticed over time, it evolves into Cancer- specifically one of the most deadliest Cancers for Women. Merely because there are no early detection tests and so remains a “silent killer” until it's too late.
So, I asked a dear friend of mine to write this one about "ovarian cancer" and the journey she took with her Mum, and here she tells her experience of living, feeling and coping with the story of Ovarian Cancer.
Body image is a completely different topic so that aside, taking notice of Ovarian Cancer in particular. The reality is that I experienced the effects, both emotionally and physically, although only from second-hand stance, as it was my mum who went through this last year. Regardless, it has made me extremely aware, and consciously thinking of, telling people about, and organising the appropriate checks as regular as required. The ordeal, (if one can call it anything other than traumatic) was endured by my mother-in-law-to-be (“mum”). I must admit she was an absolute champion throughout the whole journey, though it was very short and she was lucky, it was still experiencing a disease that used to scare the absolute life from me.
It was in November 2015 that the cascade of chaos, fear, and the unknown unravelled. The confirmation of my mum’s “a football-sized tumour”, which originally, was first assumed to be appendicitis, in which she was admitted to hospital for in the first place. The complete shock when you think a loved one that possibly needing surgery for appendicitis when in actual fact she had Ovarian Cancer!
Although, after negative appendicitis, it was only an unknown “mass/ a tumour” of which they were unsure whether was; benign or cancerous. They claimed she was “very lucky to be alive, was a very healthy woman, yet was a very sick lady.” None of which made much sense.
She had been troubled up to two years earlier, with an ever-growing stomach, that protruded outwards giving her the appearance of a pregnant woman. Pregnant she could not have been, given she was 61 years young and had already transitioned through menopause, many years earlier.
She is an extremely fit and active woman, with absolutely no ill health in sight, especially noting her age and the ever-increasing amount of age-related ailments, others her age were suffering. She exercised regularly, never sat down longer than five minutes, to be more precise. Was always watching her weight, her diet and her health with the utmost scrutiny. So having her continuously put on weight, only around the midsection, grow increasingly tired with less and less energy, was certainly a concern.
But never did any of us consider something, the likes of Cancer!
The testing and vigorous questioning, examining (which hurt, she would often say) were cause enough to hate this dreaded and incurable disease. One I knew nothing about, nor engaged much thought in, mainly because not one of my family members had ever gone through such a thing.
It's one of those things that we unconsciously justify as: ‘Because you can't see it happening, it's not there/happening’.
After scans and a multitude of tests, the confirmed results came back that she had a mass (or a tumour) the size of a football covering her ovary, ultimately restricting room in her body. It was pushing on organs, squashing her stomach and bladder making it difficult for her to breathe, and needing to the toilet frequently. It was found that the size of the mass was 20cm X 20cm! She was urgently booked in for surgery. The surgery that would aim to deduct all of the huge mass. They would totally remove her ovaries, womb, basically all her reproductive organs, and everything that had previously produced and housed four successful pregnancies (now adult children).
After which she felt like “they had ripped her femininity/womanhood out, and she was no longer a woman”. This would irrevocably change the way she felt like a woman and an individual until she learned it was better to be alive than to keep the deadly mass inside her, especially as that the ovaries, uterus etc. will never be used again, anyway. Still, a hard lesson to learn from.
Two lessons that I have taken from this:
1) Never take your family for granted. Spend time with family & friends, don't hold grudges. Re-connect, forgive and forget, build bridges with family members or dear friends before it's too late!
It's a lot easier to live through an uncomfortable reunion than to endure regret, for the rest of your life. Cherish the ones you love, loved, and even hate. It's never too late to start; appreciating, and forgiving the ones you call/called your “family and friends”.
2) Get all the appropriate health checks at the recommended times in life. Don't put your health on the back burner, on the “to-do list”- Y’know, the one that never gets done? Live for YOUR future. Keep tabs on your; health, diet, and most importantly, your body! Because no one else knows your body better than you do! If something is not right, don't justify it as ‘probably nothing’, that probably nothing could very well be your fall from grace.
The following facts, statistics, links to sites, and other interesting information should be learnt, viewed, remembered and most importantly, implemented!
Please be advised this is not an exclusive list, nor is it a substitute for proper medical advice, should you be concerned about any symptoms you are currently experiencing, please go see your doctor ASAP!
Only 20 percent of women are actually having sexual health checks, which is far too low particularly when doctors were telling us that "fertility is another issue in women", researcher Dr Mandy Deeks said.
Only 45% of women who are diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer (out of 1500 each year) will survive. With no early detecting, it's really important you know the symptoms and you know your body well!
The Ovarian Cancer Australia website is a WEALTH of fantastic information, resources, studies, community forums, buying merchandise, and a central plane to identify anything you need in relation to Ovarian Cancer. Head to:
Ovarian Cancer Australia Community
Also, check out this Ovarian Symptom Diary!
SYMPTOMS OF OVARIAN CANCER
There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer, so all women need to be aware of the symptoms. The Pap smear doesn’t detect ovarian cancer; it detects cervical cancer.
The most commonly reported symptoms of ovarian cancer are:
Abdominal or pelvic (lower tummy) pain
Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
Needing to urinate often or urgently
Feeling full after eating a small amount
Changes in bowel habits
Bleeding after menopause or in-between periods
Unexplained weight gain or loss
Lower back pain
Indigestion or nausea
Pain during sex or bleeding after sex