The Power of 1: Ovarian Cancer Awareness

By Lauren Crooks

LaurenCrooks_OvarianCancerYou 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!

The Whispering Signs of Ovarian Cancer – Do You Know Them?

By Janet Prince

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and I want to share with you the signs of ovarian cancer…why?  Because I lost my mother –  my very best friend – to ovarian cancer eight years ago and I still miss her every day.  As I shared last month, I am a breast cancer survivor but what I didn’t share is that my mother was diagnosed just five months after me with ovarian cancer.  Just like most women, my mother was so busy helping to take care of me and helping Gary with our two small children that she didn’t have time to listen to the “whispers of ovarian cancer”.

In September of 2003 as my Mom was taking care of me, I noticed her acting a little nervous.  I knew something was wrong and she was holding something back, so finally I got it out of her that “she too had a little problem”.  So, in October I finished my chemo for breast cancer one week and the following week my Mom started her chemo treatment.  We continued our cancer journey together…as my hair was returning, hers was going away.

Over the next few years, she took all the “cancer” hits for us.  My cancer to date has never returned, but Mama’s kept rearing its ugly head every time we thought we had it beat.  On Mother’s Day 2010, I admitted my Mother to the hospital and learned the end was near.  She was placed on In-Hospital Hospice in June and she passed away August 8, 2010.  During this time, we laughed, we talked and I cried.  We were blessed with those very special days and I was blessed to have a husband and family who let me spend those final eight weeks, day and night,  with her.  Gary and the girls would come to the hospital and the girls would crawl up in the bed and share with their Granny how their day was and what was going on in their life.  I believe it was those special times that kept Mama going until it was her time to go.  The night she left us, I held her hand in mine and watched as she left, and I know in my heart she went from my hand to my Daddy’s hand.  And in an instant my best friend was gone.

mom

I encourage you to know your body and know the symptoms of ovarian cancer.  What makes them hard to determine if something is wrong or not is that the symptoms of ovarian cancer are things that we just chalk up to minor irritations.  The Whispering Symptoms include:  abdominal pressure, bloating and discomfort, unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, unexplained weight fluctuation and constant feeling of fullness.  Now who of us hasn’t had many or all of these symptoms at some point in time?  If any of these symptoms prolong you may want to check with your gynecologist…and remember a pap smear does not detect ovarian cancer.

The Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Central South Carolina provides educational information, provides speakers for area lunch and learns, and holds the Cathy B. Novinger Annual Butterfly Release on the steps of the State House.  This year the Butterfly Release will be held on September 20th and butterflies will be released in honor and in memory of those who are battling or have lost their battle with ovarian cancer.  More information can be found at www.ovariancancermidlands.org

Until next time,

Janet

Make time to volunteer

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Janet:

By Janet Prince

I’ve always been intrigued with “blogs”…they appear to me to be a place where writers can share their inner thoughts and experiences with the world.  When LMC had their post on Facebook looking for new “bloggers,” I submitted my name and a brief bio and was thrilled when I was selected!  So, I think my first order of business is to introduce myself to you and share a little about my life.

I have been a lifelong resident of West Columbia, and a graduate of the University of South Carolina.  I am married to Gary Prince and we have two beautiful daughters – Ashlan, 21, who is a graduate of USC-Beaufort and is starting her master’s in clinical psychology at USC-Aiken this month and Genna, 15, who is a rising sophomore in high school.  Gary is co-owner of Senn Brothers Produce and I have been a stay at home mom since Ashlan was born.  I am a 15-year breast cancer survivor and a full-time volunteer!

logoI believe in giving back to your community through volunteerism.  I am currently the Chairman of the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Central South Carolina, which was started by the late Cathy Novinger when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  This group was formed to provide education of the symptoms of ovarian cancer to all women.  Knowing the symptoms helps with early detection which helps to save lives.  This organization means the world to me because I lost my mother to ovarian cancer and because of my daughters.  I am most appreciative of the support that Lexington Medical Center provides to our organization.  LMC will be the presenting sponsor of our 2019 Spring Event and I will be sharing more information on that as the plans are finalized!  Until then though, we will be the non-profit recognized at the Fireflies game on Thursday, August 30th at Spirit Communications Park!  To learn more about the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Central South Carolina, please visit our website at ovariancancersc.com

In addition to the OCC, I am a member of the GFWC Woman’s Club of the Midlands which is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). GFWC is dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.   I have been a member for 17 years, the past ten years spent in leadership of our state organization and I have just completed my service as the GFWC-SC State President for 2016-2018.  As president, I was able to choose projects that I was most passionate about so of course one was called “What Color is Your Cancer? Mine is Pink and Teal” – Pink for my Breast Cancer and Teal for my mother’s Ovarian Cancer.  My other project was “Dyslexia Awareness – Genna’s Story”.  Genna was diagnosed with Dyslexia in the first grade and has learned the tools needed to succeed in school and in life.  You can learn more about GFWC and GFWC-SC by visiting our websites at gfwc.org and gfwc-sc.org

With the start of school just a few weeks away, I would encourage you to look for a way for you to give back to your community.  Choose something that you are passionate about – look around there are so many choices!  You may choose to volunteer at the hospital, your local library, your child’s school, or your church or any of the many national organizations such GFWC-SC, Rotary, your local Chamber of Commerce…the opportunities are endless!

Until next time….enjoy the final days of summer!