It’s taken me a week to determine what it was that I exactly wanted to say, and how in the world to say it, so it’d come out the right way and not offend anyone. And today, while scrolling through my feeds on social media, it hit me… I finally figured out to to make this work – today is International Day of the Girl, and when women support each other, amazing things can happen…so what if we took a spin on this in the world of cancer???
Where in the world could she possibly be going with this, you might be thinking. It’s simple, and you’d understand completely, if you were looking at October through the eyes of an ovarian cancer survivor. October welcomes all things pink and breast cancer awareness month – as we pass the baton to our sisters in pink, there’s a bit of jealousy on our part that comes along with it. My close friend Brittany stepped up to the plate on October 1st and offered a suggestion, what if instead of getting our panties in a bunch by the color pink and all things breast cancer related, we partner together for the better of all involved – for two cancers so closely intertwined, in order to create more awareness for BOTH, instead of feeling like the step-sister to the other.
No one should ever be angered by a cancer color, EVER – so I began to think, and is it that I’m angry about the color pink and October…no, I don’t think it is, it’s that I’m jealous. Jealous?? You’re jealous of breast cancer, the color pink and October?? I am, and here’s why:
- I’m jealous of the fact that they have a preventative screening test in place, that can sometimes catch this disease in the early stages, and ovarian cancer is only diagnosed in the early stages 18% of the time.
- I’m jealous of the odds – the overall average 5-year survival rates for breast cancer 90%…the overall average 5-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is 46%…and don’t even ask on the 10-year survival rate. At stage 1c, which I am, the 5-year survival rate is 84%…that’s still less than the overall average for breast cancer, and I’m STAGE 1C! For the record, I believe in defying the odds..numbers are just numbers, don’t pay one bit of attention to them! It’s a statistic, that’s it!
- I’m jealous of the fact that in the first 3 days of October there was more publicity on all of the national news stations than there was the entire month of September for ovarian cancer.
- I’m jealous that most people know what breast cancer is and how it’s detected, and not many women know your annual exam doesn’t screen for ovarian cancer – currently I’m trying to figure out how to reply in an informative way to one campaign going around reminding women to schedule their annual exams by painting your pinky pink – how do I explain that the only female cancer screened for in your annual exam is cervical, none of the others are.
- And I’m painful jealous of the funding they receive to find new treatment options and research. In the 40 years since the “war on cancer” has begun, the statistics for ovarian cancer hasn’t changed much at all, like less than 4%, while other cancers have seen a significant shift – which I am so thankful for, for those effected by this awful thing called cancer!
But what if instead of being jealous, I used the feelings I have to fuel something bigger? Ask me anything about ovarian cancer and I can talk for hours. Ask me something about breast cancer and I can’t tell you much outside of what the general public knows. I’d say the same goes for women who’ve been diagnose with breast cancer, or any other cancer for that matter – they can tell you everything, but more than likely don’t know much about ovarian. I guess what I’m trying to say is this – what if the “teal sisters” and the “pink sisters” teamed up? What if the breast cancer organizations and the ovarian cancer organizations helped inform women not only about that specific cancer, but all cancers that could effect survivors – specifically two that are so closely tied to the other. Could we, women united, make a difference? Would the numbers change? Would more women be more informed about what could happen to them and how to take preventative measures against both ovarian and breast cancer – what to look for, how to take precautionary measures if you have a strong family history of a specific cancer, etc?
So, my ask is this, the same as Brittany’s – “Feel it on the First” is a big movement in the breast cancer community – how about quickly adding on to that friendly reminder, the key symptoms of ovarian cancer: bloating, inability to eat/feeling full quickly, abdominal/pelvic pain, changes in bowels and menstrual cycle, frequent urge to use the restroom (think UTI), along with sever fatigue and weight loss. We would LOVE to partner on something like this – and if you’re an organization reading this, numerous ovca survivors LOVE to speak and write…not because we’re great at it or it’s in our comfort zone, but because it’s the only way for us to create awareness and hopefully save a life.
I think it’s time we help each other adjust our crowns for the better of the whole, not just a piece – to give each of us a fighting chance against any given form of cancer. All of our experiences have made us into the fierce women we are, so let’s see if we can’t turn this cancer that “whispers” into a ROAR, TOGETHER!
“You can tell who the strong women are. They’re the ones you see building up one another, instead of tearing each other down.”