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!

Routines, RA, and Menopause – Oh My!

By Marianna Boyce

There’s nothing unusual about having a daily routine. No matter how busy or sedentary our lives may be, we mindlessly perform the same tasks without giving it a second thought. If my schedule is out of sync, it throws off my entire day. Over the past several years, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has forced me to constantly create new routines.

One morning, I’d clearly woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Not only were my joints filled with intense pain, but my brain was also discombobulated. Adhering to my morning regiment was ridiculously grueling. An RA flare made it difficult leaving the house that morning, but I managed anyway.

pexels-photo-313690.jpgAfter making it to the office, I contemplated returning home, going back to bed, and starting the day over again. However, I knew this would not have helped, so instead, I grumpily grabbed my bag and told the ladies in the office, “Hold up y’all, I’ll be right back,” as I rushed out the door.

I feebly limped to my car and got in. As I sat in the driver’s seat with my forehead resting on my hands, nothing helped much in the pain department, but a moment alone in silence allowed me to clear a few of the cobwebs and gather my thoughts. The ladies inside probably thought I was off my rocker for disappearing with no explanation.

A few minutes later, I re-entered the front door as if I was walking in for the first time that day. My big ole smile matched the upbeat sound of my voice as I said, for what sounded like the first time, “Good morning, ladies.” Clearly, I was off my rocker. My coworkers who know me so well quickly identified my forced smile and fake joyful tone. We laughed about my whirlwind tantrum and dramatic exit, then went on with our day. Now, we often chuckle about that funny morning.

It’s taken quite some time figuring out how to (mostly) successfully live with RA, but now, I’m coping with another issue. I’m currently 51, and my body is undergoing another drastic change. Menopause is looming. I still have my cycle, so I’m not quite there yet. However, those premenopausal darts are currently being thrown in my direction.

Person Lying on Bed Covering White BlanketPerimenopause, the transitional phase before menopause, begins several years before menopause. The average length of time for this stage differs for every woman. Ovaries make less estrogen during this stage and eventually, the body stops releasing eggs altogether. When a woman goes twelve months without having a period, perimenopause ends, and full-on menopause begins.

Perimenopausal symptoms include, but are not limited to:  

  • Irregular periods
  • Worsening premenstrual symptoms
  • Severe breast tenderness
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Urinary urgency and leakage

I’m experiencing eight of eleven signs listed above, while also contending with lifelong symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but I keep moving forward.

RA symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Joint pain (especially in the morning)
  • Joint stiffness, tenderness, swelling, redness, and warmth
  • Both sides affected (symmetric or mirroring)
  • Loss of range of motion, or function
  • Joint deformity
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Brain fog
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Depression

Since I have this wonderful platform, I’ll take this opportunity to also publish one fact and one symptom about RA in my own words:

FACT: Rheumatoid arthritis has absolutely nothing to do with age.

It’s frustrating when people say it is just because we are getting old. While I’m not opposed to getting older, this is not that.

SYMPTOM: Lubricating fluid surrounding the joints feels more like hardening cement instead.

This is the best way I can describe what rheumatoid arthritis feels like to those who have not experienced it. RA is challenging, painful, and life-altering.

Thankfully, I have a wonderful rheumatologist at Lexington Medical Center helping me navigate this life-altering disease. Since Dr. G’s specialty is Rheumatology, I’ll have to seek advice from my OBGYN when the time comes to navigate the menopause department.

I understand that as we age, aches and pains are inevitable. Our bodies snap, crackle, and pop when we wake each morning. As time goes on, we often wonder how in the world we arrived here because it all happens in a flash. We should all strive to grow old with grace and dignity – facing the natural progression of life.

God is good regardless of what curveballs are hurled in our direction. I’m often reminded despite my tough days and everchanging routines that there are many others in more difficult situations than me.

What are you dealing with today? How has it affected your routine? Let me know in the comments!

Calling all Midlands Women!

At Every Woman Blog we aim to unite and inspire the community of women within the Midlands, and now you have the opportunity to be a part of it. This month, we are looking to add talented new bloggers to contribute to this community. This competition is open to women of all ages in the Midlands and comes with a $250 cash prize for each blogger selected! workspace-766045_1920

Entering the contest is simple:

  1. Visit http://www.facebook.com/LexingtonMedical.
  2. Send a message or video about why you would be a great blogger to represent and inspire women in the Midlands

Use your message or video to let your personality shine! The five women with the most persuasive, funny, touching or engaging submissions are the ones who will be selected to become featured bloggers. This is an opportunity to join an exceptional group of women who share a passion for connecting with and inspiring those around them.

So, what exactly would you be a part of?

The award-winning Every Woman Blog has been active for more than seven years, with over 327,000 views of the posts by local female bloggers (that could be you!). The featured bloggers write at least one blog post per month.

Wondering what you would possibly blog about?

Anything and everything. 

There’s really no end to the type of things you can blog about! Past and current bloggers have posted about healthy recipes, travel, relationships, health issues, personal anecdotes and staying fit – the list goes on and on. Every blogger brings their own unique voice and stories to the blog, sharing anything they feel the women of the Midlands can benefit from. If you need some inspiration, the featured bloggers also get the chance to meet in person at “blogger reunions”, where they can share ideas and brainstorm topics.

Head on over to Lexington Medical Center’s Facebook page and tell us why you would make a great blogger!

 

LMC Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Doula Program

Lexington Medical Center has a history of innovative firsts for women’s services. It was the first hospital in the Midlands to allow husbands in the delivery room, give epidurals
and offer Doulas to women in labor. In fact, Lexington Medical Center is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Doula program this year!

A doula is a birth coach who offers mothers comfort and reassurance during labor and delivery. In 1994, Lexington Medical Center began an innovative Doula program that was the first-of-its-kind in the Southeast. The program has received national recognition and serves as a benchmark for programs around the country. Thanks to support from the Lexington Medical Center Foundation and its donors, Doulas are a free service for any woman having a baby at Lexington Medical Center.

“Lexington Medical Center’s Doulas have been invaluable to the women of the Midlands,” said Nydia Harter, MSN, RN, NEA, BC, director of Nursing at Lexington Medical Center. “Over the past 20 years, they have supported thousands of women and families during one of the most important times of their lives – the birth of their babies.”

Doulas are experienced professionals who undergo training specific to assisting pregnant women and newborns. In addition to understanding the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of women in labor, Doulas also facilitate communication between parents-to-be, help prepare birth plans and provide information about birth and delivery options. Postpartum Doulas offer education, support and assistance to the new family. A Doula brings much-needed confidence to a new mother through breastfeeding support and advice, newborn care and assistance with household duties.

The Lexington Medical Center Foundation sponsors the hospital’s Doula program. LMC’s Doula program is based on the highest standards of care set by Doulas of North America (DONA), the largest doula association in the world.

Lexington Medical Center’s innovative Doula program has earned the prestigious Annie Kennedy Award from DONA. The award recognizes LMC Doulas for excellence and dedication to their community as well as growth and teamwork in their program.

Doulas

Doulas

Lexington Medical Center has 16 Doulas on staff and almost half of the Doulas have been with LMC for ten years or more. Since the LMC Doula program began, it has assisted more than 8,400 families.

Lexington Medical Center will recognize Lexington Medical Center’s past and present Doulas at a special reception on July 29th on the hospital campus. Former Doulas can contact the Lexington Medical Center Foundation at 791-2540 for more information on the event.

Doulas

To learn more about LMC’s Doula program, visit this link on the hospital’s website, http://bit.ly/1qrAIXl, or Lexington Medical Center’s Facebook page.

For information on training to become a doula, visit www.dona.org.