I’ve written to you before and I didn’t think I could do it again. You see, after fighting so hard, my sister lost her battle with ovarian cancer last year. I feel her loss every day. As hard as it is to talk about, I keep remembering something she said to me after she was diagnosed. She was shocked that two educated women (she was a physician) were so unaware of the risk of ovarian cancer. As we shared her story with friends and colleagues, we discovered that we weren’t the only ones unaware of this killer. She kept telling me that we had to warn everyone. While we fought to keep her alive, we worked hard to raise awareness and to make people comfortable talking about reproductive health and ovaries.
To honor a beautiful warrior who wanted to spare anyone else’s family from the pain we have endured, I would like to share our story again as September is ovarian cancer awareness month.
Denise was one of the 85 percent of women who are diagnosed after the cancer has metastasized because the symptoms are so vague. There is no accurate screening or early detection test for ovarian cancer. Nothing done during our annual trips to the gynecologist is checking us for ovarian cancer. By the time Denise was diagnosed, the cancer had spread well beyond her abdomen. My sister was an athletic, very active person until she was told she had stage IV ovarian cancer. Most people don’t realize that ovarian cancer is only the 11th most common cancer among women, but is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women. I am calling on all of you to help me honor Denise. Pay attention to your own bodies and be aware of changes. Don’t do what most of us do and ignore them as we rush about our busy lives. If you feel any of the following: bloating that is persistent; eating less and feeling fuller; abdominal pain; urinary symptoms; please be proactive, see your gynecologist, ask for a transvaginal ultrasound; a pelvic/rectal exam; and a CA-125 blood test.
Help me spread the word during September by telling all the women in your lives about the risk of ovarian cancer.