If you pass by our office on Veterans Drive during the month of September, you’ll see four large teal bows hanging from the columns on the front of our building.
Most will travel by and probably never take notice, but for some of us, their meaning carries a message deeper than the words on this page can convey. For some of us – for me, they represent the hardest days of my 40 years, days that tormented us with grief and despair, days that ripped apart life as we once knew it, and days that I will never forget.
My mom and founder of this newspaper, Mazie, was taken from us quite unexpectedly in November 2019, at the age of 60, due to a rare form of ovarian cancer. My family had no prior history of this violent disease, and personally, I had no real knowledge of the signs and symptoms we should have been looking for all along. Hindsight is 20/20 so they say. When I look back now, I see them – the symptoms that should have been a red flag for us – symptoms as subtle as the breeze blowing through those teal ribbons, and symptoms we assumed were just part of normal, everyday aging and life. I believe the Lord is sovereign in all things, and I believe we all have an appointed day to stand before Him, but my flesh can’t help but wonder occasionally…What if I’d seen those signs?
Ironically, just a few weeks before Mom became terminally ill, she wrote an article for this very newspaper about “the silent killer”. I can vividly remember walking into her office that day to see what she was working on. I remember the gray t-shirt and blue jeans she was wearing. I remember the dark-rimmed reading glasses, slipped half-way down the bridge of her nose as she cut her eyes just over the top of them to look at me with those hazel eyes.
It is our hope with this article not to strike fear, but rather to bring awareness of the signs and symptoms of a disease that isn’t always easily spotted or diagnosed. As with any disease, the earlier a diagnosis can be made, the better the chances are for survival. Unfortunately, there is currently no effective test for early detection or screening for ovarian cancer. Early-stage symptoms are often difficult to detect, and many times are mistaken for other health issues. Only one in five cases (20%) are diagnosed in the early stages (stages I-II). As was the case with my mom, other symptoms often don’t appear until the disease has progressed to the advanced stages, and many times, until it is too late. By the time we realized something was terribly wrong, she wasn’t really left with a chance to fight. We had only six and a half weeks from her diagnosis until her death.
According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that nearly 20,000 women will receive a new ovarian cancer diagnosis in 2023, and over 13,000 of those women will die from the disease, a staggering 67% death rate. Although it is not the most common cancer, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than other cancer of the female reproductive system.
According to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), some of the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating – feeling swelling in the lower pelvis or abdomen or clothes feeling tighter than normal around the waist; pain in the abdomen, back or pelvis; trouble eating or feeling full quickly and a loss of appetite; and feeling the need to urinate more frequently. Other symptoms can include fatigue, menstrual changes, or upset stomach, constipation and heartburn.
It is important for women to pay attention to signs and symptoms and know what is normal for their own bodies. According to NOCC, women experiencing symptoms that do not subside within two weeks following normal interventions such as rest, change in diet or exercise should speak with their physician.
Pay attention, know your body, and if something doesn’t seem right, call your doctor. It just may save your life. To learn more about ovarian cancer and the signs and symptoms, visit NOCC at ovarian.org.
by Keri Coots