I first met her twenty-eight years ago last month. We were all just getting to know each other, and I remember thinking how lovely and graceful and grace-filled this dear lady was.
She was my roommate’s mother. I met her at the beginning of our freshman year. She was beautiful inside and out.
And she fought a battle no one should have to fight.
Last night my dear friend shared this information on her Facebook page. This month is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
After I posted this on my own page, another friend shared that her Mama had also battled this giant. She too fought a valiant fight, only it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t detected early enough in either case.
My friend, in describing her mother’s experience, called ovarian cancer, “the silent cancer.”
How many women, do you think, go in for their annual physicals right on schedule, put their feet in the stirrups, do what we do, get the call a few days later that all is clear, and think “Well, everything’s all right then”?
(It’s okay. Stick around, fellas. You need to know this too. Whether it’s your Mama, your sister, your best friend, your girlfriend, your wife, your daughter–you need to know too.)
Note to self. Pap smears test for cervical cancer. Not ovarian. Not uterine. Cervical–that’s it. It is my understanding that there’s not really a test to detect ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, “The 2 tests used most often to screen for ovarian cancer are transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS) and the CA-125 blood test,” but no medical professionals recommend routine use of these tests for screening. They are not definitive enough apparently.
Do we have people working on this? Please tell me yes.
As I thought about this today, I remembered a book I read years ago. “Cancer Schmancer” by Fran Drescher. I loved her in “The Nanny” and thought she was a comic genius–her timing and facial expressions and that accent. Love her. I read the book because of her, not because it was about her battle with uterine cancer. But it struck such a chord in me that it is still in my library. Without pulling it down to quote her, I can tell you the one thing that has stuck with me all these years–
Take care of you.
Be a good advocate.
You know your body. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Or “it will be okay.” Or “you’re just…..”
You know when something’s off. Push until someone hears you.
She so believes in empowering women to educate themselves and be good advocates for their health that she started the Cancer Schmancer Movement, whose mission is to “…..shift the nation’s focus from just searching for a cure to prevention and early detection of cancer in order to save lives.” You can read her story here. It took two years and eight doctors before she was finally diagnosed. She is thankful to be a survivor and wants there to be more.
Shortly after our Princess was born almost ten years ago, I could tell something was wrong. I wasn’t sure what, but I just knew. I went to the doctor where we were stationed at the time. I remember going in, worried, anxious, hoping he could tell me something–anything–that would let me know it was going to be okay.
Which he did. Tell me something, that is. This doctor and his wife had six children. (It was a small community–you knew things.) I had just given birth to my second child a few months earlier. He listened, looked at my chart, and turned to me and said, “Oh now, you’re just new Mama tired. It will pass. You’ll see.”
Patronize me, will you?
I pity his wife, I’ll just tell you that right now.
This was not new Mama tired, and my body kept telling me that. I pushed through and we moved and shortly after we got settled, I scheduled another appointment. Again, I told my story. A new doctor. A young one. I don’t know how many children he had, if any, but he didn’t say I was new mama tired. (Smart man, I’d had enough by this time.) After running different tests-he was more persistent, thank goodness–he discovered I had a thyroid issue. He prescribed some medication, and I was on my way to feeling better. That part was almost immediate–I had been heard and I wasn’t crazy. There was something wrong. It had just taken several months and me being “pushy” to find that out.
Something beautiful happened when my friend shared the information above last night. I shared it on my Facebook page in memory of her sweet Mom, not knowing if anyone would even read it. It was late, and you just never know who reads what. Today some of my friends–none of whom know each other–commented, encouraging each other to take care of themselves…..to seek information and push until they get it. Friends reached out with loving sympathy and with gratitude for facts and stories shared.
That right there. That’s what we need more of in this world. Sisters looking after sisters (because we all are, you know–color and class and nationality and religion and state of our kitchen sinks all aside–we are all sisters). Sisters empowering each other. Holding each other accountable to take care of ourselves. To celebrate with when the numbers come back really good, and to hold hands or offer a shoulder or listen and make soup or milkshakes or cry with when the numbers are not.
Tonight I’m thankful for brave women who gave it their all in the face of giants like ovarian cancer. I’m thankful for their daughters, who carry their stories and encourage others by educating and listening. I give thanks for women like Fran Drescher who pave the way for us to have the courage to speak and not worry about being called “pushy” or “bothersome” or whatever. Speak out. Be loud. Take care of you. If you even think something is off or wrong, get thee to a medical professional. Now. Keep going until you find one you trust. Who listens and hears you. And stand tight and strong with your sisters.
Most of all, tonight I am thankful for all of my sisters. Who are always there when they are needed most.
Y’all take care of yourselves. You men too. And take care of each other.
Love to all.
3 thoughts on “#whyteal…..the one where we need to get LOUD”
For over 20 years I told various doctors something was wrong with my thyroid. They always ran the same tests and while those came out within the range of ‘normal’ it turned out that MY range of normal was different. And I was finally diagnosed with low thyroid 2 years ago. Fact is I had all the symptoms of low thyroid for 20+ years. The doctors didn’t listen, believe or trust me. Then when my daughter started having the same symptoms, maybe worse, and her test results showed no problem I begged our doctor to treat her now, not to make her wait decades to ‘test thought’ before treating her. And this time the doctor listened! Tests are helpful but they are not always accurate. It is important to find doctors who treat us as humans and not just lab results!
AMEN. YES!!!! “It is important to find doctors who treat us as humans and not just lab results.” I could not have said it any better. Thank you for sharing your story Heidi. My hope is that someone will read this and say, hey maybe I should go back and have them check this again. We have to trust that we know our bodies better than anyone and quit dismissing things we know are wrong because we are afraid of making a fuss or because a doctor tells us “it’s probably nothing.” Thank you for reading and sharing. These are important conversations.
PS: As a cancer survivor, I wrote a few pieces during cancer awareness month on what not to say to cancer patients and then one on what to do to help support cancer patients that you might find interesting: http://www.themagicofmothering.com/cancer/