By Lauren Crooks
You probably don’t know me, but my name is Lauren. I am a wife, a mother, and a daughter. I am a Lexington Medical Center registered nurse. I am a beach lover and a 1000-piece puzzle wizard.
I am also 1 in 72.
I am 1 of the 20,000.
I am 1 of the 95%.
I believe in the power of 1.
You’re probably asking what those numbers mean.
Ovarian cancer occurs in approximately 1 in 72 women.
On July 5th, 2019, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Ovarian Cancer. My physician noticed a mass in my abdomen during my annual physical and sent me for an ultrasound. This led to a CT scan and then surgery to remove my ovaries, fallopian tubes and part of my cervix. The gynecologic oncologist who performed my surgery had no reason to believe at the time of my surgery that I had anything more than ovarian cysts. He saw no visual evidence of cancer anywhere in my abdomen during my surgery. That all changed when the pathology report came back a week later. My left ovary, while normal looking on the outside, was cancerous. My right ovary – the basketball sized one that prompted the initial ultrasound – had a small cancerous area on the wall.
Each year, over 20,000 women are diagnosed.
According to the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Columbia, ovarian cancer is called “the disease that whispers.” Women may not recognize the symptoms that signal the onset. You see, there is not a universally accepted test for ovarian cancer and it is never detected through pap smear examinations. It is one of the deadliest cancers among women, often detected too late to be cured. I urge you to be aware of the quiet, whispering symptoms of ovarian cancer that you might see in the early stages. If the following symptoms are unusual for you and occur almost daily for more than a few weeks, they need to be evaluated for ovarian cancer:
- Abdominal pressure, bloating or discomfort
- Nausea, indigestion or gas
- Constant feeling of fullness
- Constipation, diarrhea or frequent urination
- Abnormal female-related bleeding
- Unusual fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Painful sexual intercourse
If detected early, ovarian cancer has a 95% five-year survival rate.
I am one of the fortunate ones. Once I finish my six rounds of chemotherapy, I will be considered an ovarian cancer survivor. Yet, there are so many women I’ve met during my treatments who might not get that title. Many were not diagnosed until their ovarian cancer was already in Stage 3 or 4. Sadly, the survival rate drops below 25% for five-year survival for those who are in stage 3 and 5% for those diagnosed in stage 4. Each year 15,000 women die from this disease. This simply is not acceptable.
The power of 1 person can create a powerful domino effect towards change.
I write this blog in honor of these warriors. I believe I was spared to tell their stories. It is my sincere prayer, despite a very dire diagnosis, they can beat ovarian cancer and join me in the fight to educate South Carolina about this brutal disease. But, no matter what the future holds, the stories of my fellow fighters will help me change the numbers. They will help more women, like me, become survivors.
I invite you to be the 1.
Be the 1 who makes an appointment with her GYN because she now knows the symptoms. Be the 1 who encourages a friend or loved one to be seen by her physician. Be the 1 who shares this blog, or donates to ovarian cancer research, or simply holds the hand of someone in the middle of her fight.
It all makes a difference. Together, let’s change the numbers.
Do you have a health story to share? Let us know in the comments below!