September is ovarian cancer (ovca) awareness month. As I was reading a magazine recently, I became aware of a campaign known as “Teal Toes.” The Mission of Teal Toes is to raise awareness of ovca by having people paint their toenails teal and talk about the reason when asked. Some paint awareness ribbons on top of the teal paint. Armed with awareness of this mission I decided to join. Awareness of this type of cancer is not solely a popular fad I decided to follow. To me it is deeply personal.
About 21,550 women are diagnosed with ovca each year. In both 1986 and 1992, I was one of the 21,550. A series of tests found dysgerminoma wrapped around my right ovary in 1986 and blocking a ureter to my right kidney in 1992.
We thought we were lucky in 1986. Most cases of ovarian cancer are not caught early. Staging showed no reason to believe my disease was more than stage 1A (the earliest grade). Surgical resection of ovarian tumor was treatment. Ovca and no need for chemotherapy made me very lucky. As a result of no early intervention, about 14,600 women die from this type of cancer each year.
Six years after my original diagnosis of dysgerminoma, I had no signs of recurrence outside of elevated blood pressure. Due to tumor location, urine was blocked in the ureter and it caused my blood pressure to increase. Testing of my kidney was done and the blockage ultimately revealed to be dysgerminoma. This time the staging was IV and it meant platinum based chemotherapy along with bleomyacin and etiposide. I began treatment in November 1992 and completed it on February 15, 1993. In a very real sense, a part of my life became ovarian cancer awareness.
The most common question I am asked has no solid answer. How did you know you had cancer? Severe pain from the tumor twisting around my ovary was the reason for initially finding it. The diagnosis six years later came because of elevated blood pressure at a regular checkup for the original disease. Both diagnoses resulted in the loss of organs (ovary in 1986, kidney in 1992). Ovca is often silent until it is too late. Though I lost organs to this type of cancer, I was fortunate in dysgerminoma being highly sensitive to chemotherapy and treatment curing my disease.
Feeling a discomfort in your abdomen, bloating, feeling full too quickly after eating, and difficulty urinating are the most common symptoms of ovca. If these symptoms begin, last for a few weeks, and are unusual for you, seek physician advice. A painless ultrasound can be ordered and it can save your life.
This September my finger nails, toe nails, and life are teal. The photo is of my daughter’s thumb and my own. Because of early detection of ovca, my life and therefore hers was spared. I want to make sure people are aware.