About Me

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Ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in 1 of 72 women; 14,000 will die. Please know the symptoms and risk factors: read Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. Books at www.amazon.com. ALL PROCEEDS GO TO GYNECOLOGIC CANCER RESEARCH. I am a member of Rave Reviews Book Club and Rave Writer's International Society of Authors, and Patient Leadership Council for Tesaro, Inc. I WILL NOT USE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE THAN CONTACTING YOU DIRECTLY. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT 2011 THROUGH 2018.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Change: Good or Bad?

I have exactly 21 more days to sit in this office, at this desk, and look out this window. In three weeks we will pack the last box in the car and say "good-bye" to our Minnesota home, in which we have loved and labored for 23 years. Here is where I wrote my book Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir. I feel sad/glad. It is a positive change in that we no longer have stairs to climb several times a day; a garden that has grown too large (or have I slowed down?); leaving behind some exorbitant high taxes; plus all the additional costs of having two homes. It is sad to leave family and friends, but we look forward to visits.

So, here we come central Florida! Year round sunshine and warm to hot weather; a home on a lake; great friends; lower taxes; and year round golfing, boating, and gardening. All wonderful good changes.

When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer I thought that this life-changing event was bad, and the worse thing that could happen. I wish I had not gotten this particular disease, but for whatever the reason (genetics, diet, environment, bad karma, etc), I did. Despite the uglies of this particular change in my life, I have found incredible good. Yes, good. I have met the most inspirational women and their caregivers; been treated by kind, caring, and skilled doctors and nurses; I have a much deeper and meaningful relationship with God; and I live my life with much more gratitude and service.

I believe life is about letting go of one baton so you can grab onto the next baton. I will always have the wonderful memories of my Minnesota home as I build new memories in Florida...that is good. I let go of the baton of fear and anger with ovarian cancer and took hold of the baton to do whatever I can to educate and inspire women; to raise funds for research; and to do God's work. My book was designed and published to do all three. Change can be good; sometimes we just have to look for it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Dear Friend

As I get older a friendship becomes more valuable and appreciated. Recently I said goodbye to a dear friend, Betty Sue, who had won the challenge of ovarian cancer four years ago, then breast cancer less than a year ago, but succumbed to a massive stroke that left her without the ability to fight anymore.

The purpose of this blog is not to be morbid, but to actually celebrate the beautiful gifts we receive from friendships. Why do we develop a relationship with one person, but not another? Why do some friendships last for many years, while others only a relatively short time? Some friendships flow easily, yet others require more interaction. For me a friend is someone who is always there; a person who is a confidant; is trusting and honest; who freely shares tears and laughter; and with whom I build dreams and memories. A variety of friends are described in my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, and how important they were during that challenging journey.

"Every soul is a unique and beautiful gift from God,"is a phrase on a card I received during my cancer treatment. It describes how I see a friend...a unique and beautiful gift from God. So, Betty Sue, thank you for the friendship we shared and the wonderful memories you have left with me. Your spirit will be with me always.

What roles do friends play in your life? How do you see yourself as a friend? Did your friends change when you were faced with a difficult challenge such as divorce, a death, or serious illness?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Appetite Changes

"Gosh, I was so hungry and now I am full after just a few bites," "My indigestion seems to be getting worse no matter what I eat or antacids I take," and "I just do not have much of an appetite anymore." These are typical statements that might be said by a woman with one of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Yet these sentences could also be said by any person who is experiencing non-cancerous stomach problems. Physicians could easily treat the symptoms conservatively, and not necessarily consider ovarian cancer as a possible diagnosis. Therefore, the woman would be well advised to monitor in writing how much of a meal typically can be eaten; how often or the time of day such difficulty of eating occurs; and if there is any indigestion, constipation or bloating. Physicians appreciate concrete, documented information; a concise family history of cancer; and the woman's personal health history.

If more than one symptom of ovarian cancer is present, or there is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or the gastrointestinal distress lasts longer than 3 weeks, then the woman needs to be assertive. The sooner she consults with a gynecological-oncologist the better, because he/she has the expertise and experience to do the appropriate tests and examination.

In my book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, the reader learns what are the typical symptoms of ovarian cancer and what tests and treatments I had. I did not have any difficulty eating or digesting my food for which I am fortunate. However, the purpose of my book is to educate and inspire women. www.outshineovariancancer.com. If we all work together we can find a better method of detecting ovarian cancer, and someday a cure.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Abdominal Bloating

A common symptom of ovarian cancer is abdominal bloating. The difficulty is to determine if the bloating is too many calories; not enough exercise; natural increase for the post menopausal woman; or water and gas retention. I thought my increasingly protruding stomach was due to my diet and not enough exercise. Despite smaller portions, decreasing fat and calorie count, and increasing abdominal and cardiovascular exercising, my pant size increased.

Never did I have even a fleeting thought that it could be a tumor. I felt great and was otherwise symptom free, except four days before my diagnosis I did have a change in my bowel movements. Most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer(though not all) did have bloating plus pain, vaginal discharge, digestive or colon problems.

Our society puts such an emphasis on the slender and well proportioned woman, it makes some women feel unnecessary guilt and even take unhealthy actions to lose weight. Now is the time for people to accept us as who we are, not how we look.

Women need to be their own advocates, know and listen to their bodies, and seek appropriate medical advice. The rule of thumb is for the woman to seek a consultation with her physician if the bloating lasts longer than 3 weeks, increases, or another symptom appears. Here are two websites that have helpful tools to track possible symptoms: ocna@ovariancancer.org has a symptom diary and interim practice guide; and ovarian.org in conjunction with Dr. Oz has a sheet for tracking symptoms. I encourage using either of these resources if there is any question about some bloating or pelvic pain occurring.

To help those who read this blog, I invite comments from ovarian cancer survivors. All women can learn from and need each other.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal or pelvic pain is one symptom of ovarian cancer that is often reported. The pain is described as either a dull ache or sharp pain located below the navel. Sometimes there is also bloating, vaginal discharge or bladder problems. Such pain is usually associated with any gynecological cancer, but if it occurs frequently, suddenly and severely there is a greater possibility it could be ovarian cancer. Because pelvic pain in women can be associated with low back problems, gastrointestinal disorders, or menstrual and menopausal symptoms, it is important for the woman to document when the pain occurs, what she is doing at the time, and what has or has not helped to alleviate the pain. Persistence and an increase in frequency and/or intensity of the pelvic pain are key factors. It is recommended that the woman be seen if the symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks.

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (ocna@ovariancancer.org) has a Symptom Diary and an Interim Practice Guidance.  The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (ovarian.org) in conjunction with Dr. Mehumet Oz has a worksheet to monitor possible symptoms. Both organizations provide these important resources for the woman to easily and conveniently print from her computer.

It is interesting to me that I never had the pelvic pain even though my tumor was the size of a honeydew melon. As I said at the beginning, abdominal pain is just one symptom, but it is a common one for any gynecological disorder, including cancer.