My mom’s first symptoms were back pain and heartburn. Her doctor told her to take some antacids and that was that. It wasn’t until a bit later that she started having to go to the restroom more frequently. Then abdominal pain woke her in the middle of the night, three nights in a row. While her first symptoms didn’t seem to signal anything serious, it was the sleep-disrupting abdominal pain that ultimately made her take notice and visit the doctor.
“I think mothers are those rare people who will listen to you talk about seemingly nothing for hours. At least, mine is! She’s really supportive, and I think we have more of a friendship now that I’m older.”
My mom and I had both had prior gynecologic surgeries. Unfortunately, they’re a little too commonplace in our family. So when she underwent surgery in 2011, I didn’t think much of it, but the doctors immediately knew it was ovarian cancer. Waiting after her operation to hear just how far the cancer had advanced was agonizing. When we finally got results, we learned she had Stage 1 ovarian cancer. Reflecting on this moment today, I realize how little I knew about cancer at the time – I didn’t even know there were different stages! And in my mom’s case, the stage her cancer was detected was key. In fact, it is likely what saved her life.
“It’s unusual for ovarian cancer to be detected that early. It’s kind of like what they always say about ovarian cancer… it whispers, so listen.”
I was 11 years old when my grandmother passed away. But it wasn’t until after my mom’s diagnosis that I learned that my grandmother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer just three weeks prior to her death.
I began to connect the dots about what my strong family history of ovarian cancer meant for me and my health.
“I know that I fall within the ‘increased risk’ category, but my risk feels even higher to me sometimes.”
This information, on top of my own history of gynecologic issues, led me to make some very important changes to my health and wellness.
I began by making changes to my lifestyle to reduce my risk. I changed my diet and became a vegetarian. It was a personal choice that has really helped me learn different healthy ways of cooking. I also make sure to stay on top of my workouts. In addition to eating healthy and working out, I monitor my gynecologic health with two ultrasounds a year, and while these aren’t to screen for ovarian cancer, it makes me comfortable knowing how closely my gynecologic health is being watched.
And finally, I surround myself with other young women who are advocating for their health through Bright Pink! Bright Pink is an organization that’s tackling the issues that are so often at the forefront of my mind. I’ve had a doctor say to me “You’re too young to have ovarian cancer, so we’ll rule that out,” despite knowing my family history! My mom has met many young ovarian cancer survivors; young women need this information, too!
“It was a breath of fresh air to find Bright Pink.”
This summer I graduated from Bright Pink University (BPU). The other ambassadors and I all had different motivations for going through training, and the diversity of experiences helped me grow. I’m really excited to get out into my local community to give Brighten Up presentations and start these conversations!
There are so many misconceptions about ovarian cancer and most women don’t know much about it. But it’s my own experiences with gynecologic issues that have made a strong impression on me. Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be really vague and hard to explain. In general, I’ve learned to be an advocate for myself and get a second opinion when the first one didn’t give me the answers I needed. It’s so important to push when you know something isn’t right, it can make all the difference – that’s what I want other young women to know!
Take control of your ovarian health like Lauren and be #OvarianSelfAware at BrightPink.org/OvarianSelfAware