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Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

Brown Girl and BRCA Plus: Kellie’s Story

I stood alone. Bruised and flat-chested. Praying to have made the right decision. A casual office visit. A simple genetic test. A percentage of numbers had jump-started an amazingly wonderful, scary rollercoaster ride as I settled into life after a preventative mastectomy. As I looked in the mirror, I considered what I had lost. Gone were the breasts with which I nursed my daughter, the breasts that my grandmother and I celebrated once they budded from “nubbins,” the breasts that made me look like a million bucks in my favorite sorority shirt. Gone.

In my loss, I didn’t consider that I had gained something more valuable … peace. Gone is the fear of finding a lump as I examine my breasts in the shower each month. Gone is the apprehension I felt as I impatiently waited for the results of my annual mammogram. Gone is the anxiety I experienced as I helplessly awaited my turn at breast cancer, like an inevitable rights of passage … like my mother in the past (twice!) and my sister in the present. Breast cancer has stripped moments of happiness from our family, unfortunately, but it has also birthed this beautiful tapestry of strength, courage and resilience.

Being genetically tested and learning I have the BRCA gene mutation led me to take action and have preventive surgeries, and that has been one of the scariest and most fulfilling decisions of my life. There have been good days and bad days … up days, down days. “You are killing the game!” days have been promptly followed by “This pretty much sucks!” days. And I have learned to take every last bit of it with a measure of relief and gratitude. I have watched the very best parts of myself unfold. I have uncovered my voice and a passion to enrich, inspire, and spread the word about the importance of genetic testing, especially for women of color so that we might see ourselves represented, lest we think this option is not for us.

Surgery isn’t for everyone … but knowledge is a game changer! Being tested and knowing the results allows for consistent and thorough monitoring, and early detection of breast/ovarian cancer can save your life! I would love to share more of my story with you. I am committed to spreading awareness in whatever measure; hoping my tiny spark will ignite a roaring fire.

KELLIE is a married, mother of two, BCRA1 previvor and the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor. Kellie recently had a mastectomy and a hysterectomy (2/21/2018) and is excited to be on the other side of recovery. She enjoys traveling, thrift shopping and sharing her experiences via her blog (browngirlandbrcaplus.com) and Instagram. Kellie initiated BROWN GIRL AND BRCA PLUS to spread awareness about the importance of genetic testing and offer a view of the BRCA experience from a person of color’s perspective.

Instagram: @browngirlandbrcaplus
Web: www.browngirlandbrcaplus.com

Community, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories, We Love

Your Support Matters

When you support Bright Pink, you empower women to be proactive about their health. For the rest of 2018, we are highlighting impactful voices from our network to show why individuals support Bright Pink and our mission: to help save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and by driving women at elevated risk to take action. Here are their stories:

Julie: “I am Bright Pink because knowledge is power.”

As a genetic counselor, I’ve spent my career educating healthcare providers about the importance of identifying a patient’s risk of cancer and managing it. Bright Pink allows me to educate the patient directly and empower them to ask for a risk assessment from their providers.

I care about Bright Pink because I’ve heard too many stories in my career about patients developing preventable cancers (and sometimes dying from them) to not care.

 

 

 

 

Brianna: “I am Bright Pink because I am a mother of two, a survivor, a previvor, and a prevention advocate.”

As a high-risk women, I know how difficult it can be to take a proactive approach to our health.

I am BRCA2 positive. After learning of my risk, I was empowered to detect my breast cancer at an early stage. When diagnosed, I connected with Bright Pink, which has helped me throughout every stage.

Today I am a prevention advocate. I recently took the preventative measure to have my ovaries and tubes removed, a choice I made knowing the facts on what it means to carry this gene.

Bright Pink taught me how powerful knowledge can be, and how to be secure in my choices about my health.

 

 

 

Dr. Josh Cohen: “I am Bright Pink because we have a common goal: to stop cancer.”

As a gynecologic oncologist, I am dedicated to educating my patients and fellow physicians about proactive approaches to breast and ovarian health.

Breast and ovarian cancers impact amazing women and their families. Until we can cure these cancers, we need a mechanism to prevent them through prevention and early detection.

At this time, no cure exists for breast and ovarian cancer. Bright Pink gives me hope we can prevent these cancers.

 

 

 

 

Puja: “I am Bright Pink because I am a woman, sister, aunt and daughter.”

I am not only a woman, sister, aunt, and daughter – I am a tireless health and awareness advocate for those who can’t be for themselves.

Bright Pink has opened my eyes to the need for women to both educate and take action when it comes to our health. We are our own best advocates. Bright Pink’s tools are necessary for all women to truly own their health trajectory.

If we do not assess our risk early and often, we leave our health to chance.

By supporting Bright Pink, I know I am helping all women to be their own best health advocates.

 

 

 

Stacey: “I am Bright Pink because I own my breast and ovarian future.

9 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Through that harrowing experience, my sister and I learned that we’re BRCA positive.

I was fortunate to meet Bright Pink. They held my hand through my BRCA discovery, my mastectomy, and my hysterectomy, and helped me feel empowered about my future.

I support Bright Pink because they gave my mother, my sister, and me the confidence to be proactive about our health.

Join me and support Bright Pink today as they help to save women’s lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to live proactively.”

 

 

Join Julie, Brianna, Dr. Cohen, Puja, Stacey and our entire community by making a gift today.

$10 has the power to help one woman know her breast and ovarian cancer risk and manage her health proactively.

$100 has the power to educate a healthcare provider on breast and ovarian cancer risk stratification and management for their patients.

 

 

Assess Your Risk

Take Your Health Into Your Own Hands

Bright Pink is a nonprofit like no other: We want to advance the conversation around breast and ovarian cancer beyond awareness to action. Our organization is built on a foundation of focusing on health, not cancer.

This October, we are launching a new and improved version of our digital quiz, Assess Your Risk, to better empower all women to learn their breast and ovarian cancer risk and manage their health proactively. While Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an excellent time to talk about breast health, Bright Pink is fiercely committed 365 days a year to ensuring women can be their own best health advocates. We have updated our flagship program, Assess Your Risk, to better equip women to do just that.

What’s new, you ask?

The tool is up-to-date with the latest National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines, has received the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s seal of approval, and includes new features such as:

  • A design facelift! We are using new colors and design elements to enhance your quiz-taking experience.
  • A better mobile experience so you can easily take the quiz on-the-go.
  • Results delivered to your inbox: A PDF version of your results will be emailed to you after taking the quiz so that it’s always at your fingertips.
  • Personalized results and risk-reduction recommendations–we do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to breast and ovarian health. You’ll also be served up content and resources that meet you where you are in your breast and ovarian health journey. For example, if you don’t have a complete picture of your family health history, the quiz will generate your individual results based on lifestyle and personal health history, but then follow up with resources to support you in gathering any gaps in information if needed.  
  • A new section on the results page called ‘Things we’re keeping an eye on,’ dedicated to informing you about ongoing research into additional factors that may contribute to your risk (i.g. IUD’s and other forms of birth control, transgender hormone therapy, and endometriosis, among others).
  • An enhanced user experience with a progress bar to guide you through questions organized by category of risk factors (family health history, personal health history, lifestyle).
  • New questions about race/ethnicity and health insurance to better tailor results and enhance the accessibility of follow up content.
  • New content and recommendations related to the elevated risk of triple-negative breast tumors and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations amongst black women.

 

We’re super proud of this new and improved Assess Your Risk experience, and want everyone to see what all the hype is about. Shout out to our corporate partner, Deloitte, for sponsoring the development of this life-saving tool.

If you have already assessed your risk, you know how valuable that knowledge can be. But did you know you should reassess annually? Your breast and ovarian cancer risk can change over time and the medical community is always learning about new factors that affect our risk. If you haven’t taken the quiz yet this fall, there’s no time like the present to take your health into your own hands.

Bright Pink is committed to helping all women know and understand why it’s even important to know your breast and ovarian cancer risk in the first place. So, we teamed up with notable influencers across the nation to share their stories and inspire you to prioritize your breast and ovarian health. Shout out to Zeta Tau Alpha for sponsoring the development and distribution of these incredible videos. We dare you to watch these and not get instantly inspired.

If you skimmed this post (no judgement) and only walk away with one thing, know this: Bright Pink is here to help you take your health into your own hands, but being proactive starts with you. Take control of your breast and ovarian health first by taking Assess Your Risk, watching our inspirational videos, and stay connected to us and our work on social media. Your body thanks you!

 

Community, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories

The Somm and the Diva Mom

Seth is the Wine Director at Booth One, a Chicagoland bar and restaurant in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Throughout the month of September and October, Booth One is hosting a Happy Hour program benefitting Bright Pink. We sat down with Seth to ask him some questions about his philanthropic spirit and connection to Bright Pink.  

Tell us a little bit about the fundraiser you are hosting at Booth One. What should our community know?

Stop by Booth One (1301 N State Pkwy, Chicago) any Wednesday throughout September and October and you will be able to enjoy $5 bar bites like Crispy Halibut Tacos, plus $5 beers and a selection of $5 wines and bubbles. A portion of proceeds will be donated to Bright Pink to help educate our community on the importance of knowing your breast and ovarian cancer risk and managing that risk proactively. Cancer can be a difficult topic of conversation, but I want this event to be able to celebrate the strength we can build together and have some fun doing it. Like my mom used to say, “Life is difficult, but it’s so much more fun to laugh than to cry about it.”

Note: Bright Pink encourages you to drink responsibly! Research shows a 10% increase in breast cancer risk for each drink you have each day, so do your best to limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.

What is your connection to Bright Pink?

Bright Pink was actually brought to my attention through a friend as a potential non-profit Booth One could endorse. As I did more research, I knew there could be a way to incorporate fundraising for Bright Pink into our wine program in addition to honoring my mother since Bright Pink’s work hits so close to me and my heart.

Why Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? What significance does this have?

My mother passed away from ovarian cancer last October (2017). She endured an aggressive cancer that took her life only three short months after diagnosis. Throughout her treatment, we heard over and over about how sly ovarian cancer is and how difficult it can be to recognize the signs and symptoms before it’s too late.

I remember my mom’s doctor saying that we should all be looking at cancer more holistically and combat it before it’s able to go into full force. My experience has taught me the power of being knowledgeable about ovarian cancer risk and how to pay attention to the signs and symptoms. My mother also LOVED wine and helped foster my personal passion for it. It was during the opening of Booth One that she was diagnosed and I spent countless hours by her side while building our award-winning wine list, so our happy hour program is also a commemorative event to celebrate the influence she had on me and my success.

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

“At 34, I was the epitome of a healthy young woman.”

Did you know? About 21,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and of those, 14,000 die from it. That’s essentially ⅔ ratio. This year, I became one of those 21,000; however, I’m also incredibly lucky to be one of the fortunate ones who caught it before it was too late.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because there is so much that we, as women, don’t know about our bodies and how we can be proactive about our health.

My Story

At 34, I was the epitome of a healthy young woman. I eat clean, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and wear sunscreen. One day, I walked into the doctor’s office and found out I have cancer.

My journey started with a gut feeling. In recent years, I’d had a number of friends who had confided in me about their trouble conceiving and, as an unmarried woman in my early 30’s who desperately wants children one day, I decided to trust my instincts and look into freezing my eggs.

At my initial appointment, the doctors gave me an ultrasound which revealed a large ovarian cyst on my right ovary. The doctors assured me it was nothing, “99% chance it’s benign” but nonetheless, they recommended I have surgery to remove it so it wouldn’t rupture and cause more severe internal damage. I reluctantly agreed.

Surgery number one was scheduled in September. The plan was to have the cyst removed and then I could proceed with egg freezing; however, after surgery, I walked in to my follow up appointment for the biopsy results and got the news everyone dreads hearing.

On October 5, 2017 I was diagnosed with immature teratoma (stage 1) ovarian cancer. As the doctors explained to me, the initial cyst was benign; however, during surgery, they found another tumor that none of the scans had shown. That tumor was cancerous.

The next few weeks were a blur. I saw numerous doctors for second and even third opinions to understand what was going on in my body and what was the best course of action for my treatment. After reviewing all options, the treatment plan was outlined to have surgery to remove my right ovary and, as long as the cancer hadn’t spread, I wouldn’t have to proceed with chemotherapy.

I felt so many emotions during those weeks leading up to surgery. I wondered how on earth this was happening to me, why I didn’t know and what signs I missed. As someone who is extremely type A, I scoured my calendar for missed annual appointments or anything of that nature and I came up short. I had done everything right, it just didn’t make sense.

Going into surgery was one of the scariest days of my life. I believed in my heart that I would be ok but I still saw the fear in everyone’s faces when they learned my story. But I’m nothing if not a fighter so I forged ahead, trying to remember to be brave like all those other women who’ve been through this battle too.

Luckily, on Thanksgiving that year after surgery #2, I was given the news that I was cancer-free. This means I would be closely monitored for the next year but essentially, I had a clean bill of health and wouldn’t need additional treatment.

As I stand here today, it’s certainly not lost on me how fortunate I am to have caught this early. And, when Bright Pink approached me to write this piece, I’m reminded of something I heard once that really stuck with me: It’s not luck that changes your fate. Everyone in this world will have situations that are “lucky.” It’s what you do with that luck that has the power to change the world.

For me, that’s why Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is so important. I’m standing here today not with any large life lesson or sign/symptom that I can share to save you or your loved ones from cancer. Instead, I’m joining Bright Pink and telling you to #ListenUp.

#ListenUp to your instincts. If you think something isn’t right, call your doctor. Who knows, it just may save your life. It saved mine.

MORGAN BELLOCK is a Public Relations professional living in the Chicago area. You can get in contact with Morgan at [email protected]

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

“I took time to #ListenUp to my health. It made a huge difference.”

When I got a phone call from my Uncle Joe, a surgical breast oncologist, several years ago I had no idea that it would save my life. He called because he knew I had three aunts who had been diagnosed with cancer (one passed away from ovarian cancer at just 41 years of age, another after a long battle with breast cancer, and one who is a breast cancer survivor to this day) and encouraged me to see a genetic specialist to better understand my personal breast and ovarian cancer risk.

Before long, I entered a program that took a deep dive into my family history. While my test results came back negative for the most common genetic mutations associated with these cancers, the genetic specialist shared that my risk factor was greater than the average woman. Knowing this allowed me to have very important conversations with my doctors about early detection and prevention strategies.

Several years later, during a routine self-exam, I found a lump. I remember it all too well: I had just worked out and had 15 minutes for a quick shower before I needed to take my son to basketball practice. In fact, I can still remember looking at the clock in a typical rushed state. I recall telling myself that I was no good to him if I was not here, took those few extra minutes, and proceeded with my exam.

After several tests, the lump was diagnosed as stage one breast cancer. Because of the information I already knew about my family health history, I chose to undergo a double mastectomy and later, an oophorectomy. Understanding my level of risk allowed me to make informed decisions about my health.

As I continue my quest to share knowledge as a Bright Pink Education Ambassador, I cannot stress the importance of taking the time to #ListenUp to your health. As a woman, I know that the role of caretaker comes to me naturally, in addition to being a wife, employee, and volunteer. As women, we never forget to take our children to the dentist, or miss a deadline on a work project–but somehow in the midst of all of this, we often forget ourselves and our own health.

I can’t count the number of times I have heard from smart, educated women, that “breast and ovarian cancers don’t run in their family” or “they have not had a mammogram lately/skipped their annual well woman’s exam because they feel good.” When I hear these things, I explain that no one is exempt from these conversations and that taking the time to #ListenUp to our bodies and catch these cancers at early, non life threatening stages is so, so important.

Here are three things you can do today to help #ListenUp to your body:

  • Know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer–they can be confused with common digestive or menstrual issues.
  • Plan all of your annual doctor appointments for a specific month. For me, February is “take care of me month.”  I make sure that I schedule all of my annual appointments during this time because it works best for my life and schedule.
  • Use the first day of every month to remind myself to be self-aware. This month (and every month!), #ListenUp to your ovarian health, take note of any changes in your body, and spend some time collecting your family health history.

We know that these cancers are prevalent and serious. But if caught early, the survival rate is amazing! The key is to be your own health and wellness advocate, because early detection and prevention can save your life.  It saved mine.

SUSAN EURITT is a Bright Pink Educational Ambassador living in Chicago, IL. She is the Principal at Ruckus Strategic Partnership Consulting.

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories

“Mom, I #ListenUp Every Day to Honor You.”

Ovarian Cancer Awareness month is important to me because it provides me so many opportunities to honor my mother and raise awareness about a critical women’s health issue.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic disease; but, when caught early, the 5 year survival rate is greater than 92%–a fact that resonates with me deeply because it is highlighted through my mother’s story. As her story will show you, our ovaries talk to us and let us know if something is wrong; it’s important to #ListenUp to your body and pay attention to your health.

My Mother’s Story

In 2009, my mother was the epitome of good health and an active 53 year-old woman. Prior to her diagnosis, she had multiple, complex ovarian cysts that her doctor monitored every three months. When I reflect back on her journey, I can now see that she experienced some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer that were misdiagnosed by doctors. I know now that this is common for other women as well, as the signs and symptoms of the disease are so vague and can be confused with other conditions and diseases.

A few months later, her doctor decided it would be best to remove her ovaries and scheduled her for routine, outpatient surgery — a bilateral salpino-oopherectomy. We were told she’d be able to go home that day after she recovered.

When she awoke from surgery, she learned about her Stage 1C ovarian cancer diagnosis from my dad. She and our entire family were devastated by this news. Once the doctors saw that it was cancer, she had a more invasive surgery, a 1-week hospital stay, followed by 6 cycles of chemotherapy. As a result, mom achieved a 2.5-year remission!

In March 2012, during a follow-up exam, her doctor discovered that the cancer recurred. My mom and our entire family were heartbroken. We knew she had a long road to recovery ahead. During this time, mom helped me plan my teal (the color of ovarian cancer awareness) and black wedding in New York City and in February 2013 stood by my side as my matron of honor.  

Over the next 6 years, mom endured continuous chemotherapy treatments, participated in a number of clinical trials and multiple surgical procedures. While we may have had short periods of remission, her cancer always returned.

This past year was the most difficult in her journey–mom lost a significant amount of weight and developed complications from radiation. Multiple hospital stays later, her doctors recommended that the best way to get her stronger for any future treatment would be for her to enroll in hospice care. I was full of hope during this time. After only 6 days in hospice care, my mother passed away in July after a 9-year valiant and courageous battle. She was surrounded by her family at home and I feel privileged to have been holding her hand as she took her last breath.

I was super close to my mom and I miss her every day. By telling her story, I am able to work through my grief. I carry her in my heart and she lives on through me and my children. Now that I have a daughter of my own, it is important to me to educate women about this disease and empower them to be their own advocates by listening to their bodies. While there is no reliable detection test for ovarian cancer, the best thing women can do for themselves is know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, be informed about their family health history, and talk to their doctor about their individual risk level for ovarian cancer to develop a personal health plan that is unique to them.

My mom was such a generous and openly warm woman and I know her hope today would be that through sharing her experience with ovarian cancer, other women will be informed of its symptoms and path so that it could lead to more early detection and increased survival. This month, and every month, I want you to #ListenUp to your body, know what normal is for you, and talk to your family to better understand your family health history. It matters.

JENNIFER LINDSAY is a Bright Pink Education Ambassador. You can get in touch with her at [email protected]

 

Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

“She taught me to #ListenUp to my body.”

From my pre-school to preteen years, every day ended with a school bus ride to my grandparents’ house–though we just called it “grandma’s house” back then.

My favorite hour of the day was hearing the garage door rumble, and the screen door creak, and seeing my grandma stroll in with a hug and a tray of something sweet. She’d fill up the cookie jar, change out of her hospital clothes, and lay on the couch to relax with us.

One day, from the couch, my grandma pointed to the basketball hoop outside her window where my brother was playing, and told me I should try out for the 4th grade basketball team.

Some personality traits skip generations. My grandma, born in 1932, had always wanted to play sports. She had a badass scar on her leg from a bicycle kickstand, and her fervent loyalty to Minnesota Vikings football made me imagine her as a 1940s teenager running routes at a school recess she probably never had. Looking back, I’m amazed at how that one, simple sentence of encouragement launched ten of the most formative years of my life, on the court.

Shortly after my basketball tryout, I was riding in the backseat of my mom’s car when she told us devastating news. My grandma had noticed a strange back pain, and tests showed it was actually ovarian cancer. Although they expected to beat it into remission with chemo, the chance of recurrence was high. My stomach dropped, and I hoped desperately that the diagnosis was wrong, or that she’d at least beat the odds and stay with us. I couldn’t wrap my mind around my grandma not being present for my school graduations or wedding.

The very last time I saw her, we baked cookies, and I sat next to her on her favorite couch. Inside, I knew it was time to tell her I love her. An unspoken goodbye.

After a long and brave fight with ovarian cancer, and chemo, and wigs, and scarves, and oxygen and hospital stays–I lost my grandmother in November 2005.

What I remember most about her funeral was shivering from cold and nerves at the church lectern, and my uncle saying, “the world just got a lot colder.”

Six years later, I was a college senior working an on-campus job when I got the worst menstrual cramps of my life. I headed to the campus store for medicine, but when I got close, I knew something was wrong. My cramps seized a crippling grip on my abdomen until I could barely walk. I felt nauseated, and overcome with a raging fever. I quickly ducked into the bathroom, and tucked myself away in a stall. I wondered whether I would make it out, or if I was dying. If I was dying, I knew a bathroom stall was not the best place to find help. Suddenly, I felt an inexplicable reprieve. A cool, internal sensation. And for no identifiable reason, I thought of my grandmother. I took that split second of relief to crawl out of the bathroom and ask for help before I fainted and woke up in the hospital. After a series of poor medical experiences–including doctors who laughed at my questions and told me I was probably just pregnant–I was finally diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and potentially endometriosis, too.

Some traits skip generations. I watched my grandmother listen to her body. Seek out doctors. Ask questions. And fight–with a humble, beautiful will to survive, until her very last day. And, she passed that energy down, much like her love for sports.

I fight for my health and #ListenUp to my body because I love life, just like she did. Because I want to spread warmth and empower people, like she did. Because my health matters to my family–and the family I have yet to build–just like she meant the world to us.

ALEX BLEDSOE is a writer, filmmaker and communications strategist, and the co-founder of Breaktide Productions. Alex has been recognized as a Maynard 200 Fellow and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Fellow, and was previously a guest columnist for The Washington Post, an Aspen Institute emerging writer nominee, and a Hedgebrook scholar. Previously, Alex managed public relations for Apple. She is multilingual, and earned her B.S. from Georgetown University with a degree in international politics. In 2005, Alex’s grandmother passed away after battling ovarian cancer for five years. In 2011, Alex was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). She is an advocate for self love and practices self care through exercise, laughing, traveling and quality time with loved ones.

Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

I’m 21, I #ListenUp to My Ovarian Health–You Should Too.

When my mom, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, entered home hospice, she could no longer work in the same capacity as before she got sick. Yet, her innate desire to constantly create drove her to create a little project that she could devote her creativity and energy to daily. This mini-project involved posting on Instagram a list of 1,2,3 daily at 1:23 for 123 days–she titled it Project 1,2,3. My mom made it to day 61 out of 123, as she became too ill to complete it. Leaving a piece of work unfinished was something she would never willingly do. So, after she died, I had the idea to complete the last 62 days for her. My Project 1,2,3 was about sharing my mom and I’s relationship with the world, about letting everyone know how I feel about her, about showing some of the things that encompass the Rosenthal family, and tangibly acknowledging my mom in some way everyday. The completion of Project 1,2,3 led me to creating a 365-day guided journal that plays off the power of three by using the everyday tool of list making. The Project 1,2,3 journal will be out in the world this coming spring! Because I am a big fan of lists of 3, I will tell my Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month story in a list of 3:

One: While I would not proclaim that one type of cancer “deserves” more attention than another, I think it is fair to say that ovarian cancer does not get as much attention as it should.  Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to to spread knowledge and awareness to women of all ages, men, caretakers, doctors, and really anyone that is willing to listen. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is especially important to me because I have a deep rooted desire to decrease the number of people adversely affected by this disease, as I lost my mother to ovarian cancer when I was 20. Honestly, I did not know much about ovarian cancer before it became relevant and personal to my life, but I am sharing a glimpse of my story in hopes that this month people will #ListenUp and learn about ovarian cancer regardless of any connection to the disease.

Two: I have learned quite a few facts about ovarian health over the past two years of my life. One relatively easy acronym to remember about ovarian cancer symptoms is BEAT- Bloating that is persistent, Eating less, feeling fuller, Abdominal and/or back pain, Trouble with your bladder & bowels (NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Initiative). I’ve also learned that using an oral contraceptive for five years reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. While I recognize this is not possible for everyone, it is one good proactive measure to take. Genetic testing will also increase your overall knowledge of family history and future risks. While I am by no means a medical expert, there are tangible things we can all do for our ovarian (and overall!) health. Beyond becoming more knowledgeable about my ovarian health, I also #ListenUp to my body is regularly visiting the gynecologist, which makes me feel more in control of my ovarian health.

Three: I recognize that this is not and will not be everyone’s narrative but for me, my relationship with ovarian cancer also means a relationship with grief. A few things that have helped me throughout my ongoing grieving process and life without my mom are:

  • Amber Mark’s album titled “3:33
    • She sings about working through her mother’s death
  • Mari Andrew’s book Am I There Yet?
    • She writes about adulthood, finding yourself, ambition, adventure, loss, grief, heartache and more- each chapter is accompanied by spreads of her signature illustrations
  • Re-reading my mom’s books
    • Check out Amy Krouse Rosenthal, prolific author of 35+ children’s books, 2 adult memoirs, and several tiny films online
  • My Dad’s TED talk!
    • Titled “The Journey Through Loss and Grief”
  • Working out
    • It distracts my mind for a chunk of time in the day and increases my overall health
  • Working at the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance
    • Devoting my time to something meaningful to me
  • Talking about it
    • Just… talk about it!
  • Love
    • Receiving it and giving it


PARIS ROSENTHAL grew up in Chicago and attends Quest University Canada near Vancouver. Aside from spending time with family, you can usually find her listening to music, playing sports, traveling, organizing, or writing. Paris’s other work includes Project 1,2,3, a 365-day guided journal, and #1 New York Times Best Seller, Dear Girl, a collaboration with her late mother, Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Follow her Instagram Project 1,2,3 here.

 

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