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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.

 

Assess Your Risk, Early Detection, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

This September, We Want You to #ListenUp to Your Ovaries

Whether we recognize it or not, we are in constant conversation with our bodies. Dehydrated? Betcha have parched lips! Conquer an insanely hard workout last night? Those sore muscles sum it up perfectly. While some of these cues from our body are easier to recognize than others, let’s be real: our bodies are often the first to tell us when it is in need of some love or attention.

But, how often do we listen to our bodies when it comes to our ovarian health? When’s the last time you paused and took time to #ListenUp to what your ovaries are telling you? When we know that 1 in 75 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime and the 5-year survival rate can be greater than 92% when detected early, there is no time like the present to get up close and personal with our ovaries and ovarian health.

This Ovarian Cancer Month, Bright Pink wants you to tune in and #ListenUp to what your ovaries are telling you! We want to empower you to be your ovaries’ best advocate by knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, feeling confident in knowing your body, and collecting your family health history to better understand your individual risk level for ovarian cancer.

We know what you’re thinking, “Okay, I know I need to #ListenUp to my ovaries, but what do I #ListenUp for?” We have answers. While many of these signs and symptoms can be confused for common menstrual or digestive issues, it’s important to stay in tune with your body and take note of any changes. If these signs or symptoms persist or worsen for 2-3 weeks, see your doctor as ask: “Could it be my ovaries?”

Primary Symptoms

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Needing to urinate urgently or often
  • Prolonged bloating
  • Difficulty eating/feeling full quickly

Secondary Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Back pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Menstrual changes

Join us all month long in sharing these signs and symptoms with the women you love so they can also #ListenUp to their bodies. We will also be doing some exciting things on social (think: female-inspired playlist to bounce to all month long) in addition to sharing personal stories from amazing women in our network about their experience with ovarian health and cancer. Be sure to follow us on Facebook (@BrightPink), Instagram (@BeBrightPink), and Twitter (@BeBrightPink) and use the hashtag #ListenUp to stay as up-to-date as possible! 

Community, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories, Video

Team Bright Pink Profiles: Angie’s Fundraising Tips

Are you a member of Team Bright Pink who is looking for some new ideas to boost your fundraising efforts? Angie Norvich is one of our Team Bright Pink members running the NYC Marathon in November. She has had tremendous online fundraising success, and wants to share some tips with you:

  1. Share your story.
  2. Set a goal, and don’t be afraid to go big.
  3. Ask for donations on Fridays!
  4. Persist, persist, persist, and ask again.

To get the full scoop on each tip, watch Angie’s video below. You can also learn more about Angie and her story by watching the first video in this Team Bright Pink Profile series.

Community, Early Detection, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories, Video

Team Bright Pink Profiles: Angie’s Story

Team Bright Pink is special for many reasons: members span the nation, come from different backgrounds, and are committed to our mission to save women’s lives from breast and ovarian cancer. We love and embrace Team Bright Pink’s diversity, but also strive to use it as a platform to share impactful stories and create more meaningful connections.

Angela (Angie) Norvich, a member of Team Bright Pink running the NYC Marathon in November, has a personal connection to our mission. After her sister Melissa lost her life to breast cancer earlier this year, Angie wanted to fuel her sister’s legacy by joining Team Bright Pink and empowering young women across the nation to become knowledgeable about their breast and ovarian health. For inspiration, watch Angie’s story and learn how you too can help empower women to be their own best health advocates!

Inspired by Angie’s ‘Commitment to Conquer’?  Commit to a gift to Bright Pink today.

Assess Your Risk, Early Detection, Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

What to Expect at your Well-Woman Exam

Start a conversation with Bright Pink about your annual well-woman exam by visiting BrightPink.org/Annual

Here’s a data point that’s staggering, but true: 9 out of 10 millennials self-report that they do not schedule doctor’s visits!* Regardless of if you’re a millennial, Gen Z, Gen X, Baby Boomer–it’s important to make time to see a healthcare provider every year, even when you are feeling healthy. Annual well-woman exams are critical to maintaining your breast and ovarian health!

But, not everyone feels comfortable going to the doctor, and often women feel anxious about their well-woman exam. We hear you! Call Your Doctor Day is Bright Pink’s annual, national holiday focused on encouraging women to schedule their annual well-woman exam and equipping them to make the most out of their experience through information and resources.

No matter your gender identity, you should be seeing a healthcare provider annually for this routine visit if you have a vulva, breasts, or a uterus.

This year, Call Your Doctor Day is focused on encouraging women to see their healthcare providers as trusted partners in preventive care: You + Your Healthcare Provider = Dream Team! We want to help women understand that although you are your own best health advocate, your healthcare provider plays a critical role in maintaining your breast and ovarian health and developing a personalized prevention plan. We want to equip you to use your well-woman exam to build a relationship with your healthcare provider, ask him or her questions, and have a conversation about your health!

A conversation with your healthcare provider starts with you! Here’s a breakdown of everything you should expect at your annual, so you can go into the exam with confidence:

A Standard Physical: This typically includes height, weight and blood pressure.

Family & Personal Health History Collection: You may fill out a form or chat with a provider about your health history. This information should be updated annually.

Clinical Breast Exam: Clinical breast exams are optional, but plan to have a conversation with your healthcare provider about if this makes sense for you and your health. A breast exam only lasts a few minutes and can help protect you from any surprises when it comes to breast cancer.

Mammogram: Plan to talk to your healthcare provider about starting mammograms at age 40. But, if you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer, you should schedule your first mammogram when you are 10 years younger than the age at which your relative was diagnosed. So, if your mom was diagnosed at 45, talk to your doctor about starting mammograms at 35.

No Two Exams are Alike!: Everyone has a different family health history, personal health history, and lifestyle – so your exam will not look like someone else’s!

Other Helpful Tips:

  • To help guide a powerful provider-patient conversation, go to AssessYourRisk.org and complete our breast and ovarian risk assessment quiz before your well-woman exam. Print out your quiz results and use them as a conversation starter!
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, the annual well-woman exam is completely covered by insurance. So no excuses! This year, Bright Pink is taking a new and innovative approach to helping you schedule your exam. Start a conversation with us by visiting BrightPink.org/annual.

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*Source: The ZocDoc Healthcare Dropout Survey (May 2015). Retrieved from: https://www.zocdoc.com/about/news/new-study-why-americans-are-dropping-out-of-healthcare/

Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories, We Love

Dear Bright Pink …

Bright Pink’s supporters are paramount in helping us achieve our mission of empowering women to live proactively. Our hearts were filled to the brim when we got a donation from an 11-year-old named Maia. She shared:

 

We’re touched by Maia’s generosity. Follow her lead by making a gift to support our work. Together, we can ensure girls like Maia can be healthy and live on until they, too, are super, super old. 😉  Give Today.

Assess Your Risk, Community

This International Women’s Day, We #PressforProgress in Women’s Health

Since the early 1900’s, women across the globe have come together on one day a year to celebrate sisterhood and rally behind driving progress for women’s rights and wellbeing. This day, globally recognized as International Women’s Day, is close to Bright Pink’s heart for many reasons. In 2018, we are focused on one reason in particular: The power and spirit of community.

At Bright Pink, we know and believe in the power of the collective effort–we see it in our office, in our daily work, and in the communities we work with. We’re committed to #PressforProgress in women’s health all month long, in honor of both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. How? By encouraging women across the nation to #SelfCareandShare and join a growing community of female health heroes who are prioritizing breast and ovarian health. This is what progress looks like, in action:

  1. See health care as a form of self-care by assessing your risk for breast and ovarian cancer using our tool Assess Your Risk™
  2. Share Assess Your Risk™ with 8 women you love to create a sentiment of sisterhood and extend the knowledge that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Not only is it important to continue to #PressforProgress in women’s health, but it’s also important to celebrate the work we have accomplished together thus far. In 2018 alone, 57,000+ women have assessed their risk for breast and ovarian cancer–contributing to a total of over 900,000+ women since Bright Pink’s inception. That is definitely something worth celebrating!

It’s an exciting time to be a woman. And together, we are stronger. Together, we can make an impact. Together, we can become proactive health advocates and encourage others to do the same.

Join in on our conversation around health care as self-care all month long by following Bright Pink on social media and using the hashtag #SelfCareandShare 

Assess Your Risk, Community, We Love

Every Wednesday this March, Bright Pink is ‘Crushing’ on a Different Fearless Female

Each Wednesday throughout March, in honor of Women’s History Month, Bright Pink will be highlighting a different woman who has made incredible strides for women’s health and wellbeing. #WomenCrushWednesdays are intended to elevate heroic stories of women’s health advocates with the goal of inspiring and motivating that same heroism in you!

Wednesday, March 7th

This week’s crush: Mary Claire King, Ph.D.

“At a time when most scientists believed that cancer was caused by viruses, she relentlessly pursued her hunch that certain cancers were linked to inherited genetic mutations. This self-described ‘stubborn’ scientist kept going until she proved herself right.” – Former President Barack Obama, upon awarding King with the National Medal of Science

How she’s a hero: Mary Claire King is recognized as a pioneer in the field of genetics. In 1990, after years of research and motivated by the passing of a childhood friend, she made a revolutionary link between genetics and cancer through her discovery of the BRCA1 gene–or chromosome 17–that we now consider a main identifier of breast and ovarian cancer. Her discovery came at a time when many scientists believed that cancer was viral and that genes played no role in cancer diagnosis. Her discovery of the BRCA1 gene was revolutionary in not only identifying breast and ovarian cancer, but in diagnosing and treating these cancers as well.

We are also crushing on Mary Claire King because apart from being an amazing researcher and geneticist, she is also an advocate for women’s health and was awarded the National Medal of Science for her commitment to applying her skills in the service of others around the world.

Mary Claire King currently serves as an advisor to Color, a health service that helps individuals understand their genetic risk for hereditary cancers, and is a faculty member at the University of Washington.

 

Wednesday, March 14th

Jane C. Wright WCWThis week’s crush: Jane C. Wright

“She recognized the value of placing patients on clinical trials. It was not exactly accepted by the medical public…She looked at it as an opportunity to open the gates to new possibilities in treatment of cancer. In that way she was a trailblazer.” – Dr. Robert E. Madden, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at New York Medical College

How she’s a hero: Jane C. Wright is an acclaimed oncologist and cancer researcher from U.S. history who changed how we approach chemotherapy today. Following in the footsteps of her father (who was also a doctor), Jane challenged the status quo when it came to chemotherapy and pushed the medical field to consider chemo as a viable option for cancer patients, as opposed to a last resort strategy. She was also the first doctor to use clinical trials to make cancer treatment more effective.

We also consider Jane C. Wright a hero for her contributions beyond the medical field. Jane was tenacious and fearless when it came to breaking down gender and racial barriers. Not only was she the founder of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, but she was also the first woman elected president of the New York Cancer Society AND the first black woman to hold the position of associate dean at New York Medical College–all at a time when the medical field was dominated by white men.

Jane C. Wright died at the age of 93 in 2013 at her home in New Jersey.

 

Wednesday, March 21st

This week’s crush: Angelina Jolie

“It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.” – Angelina Jolie

How she’s a hero: Angelina Jolie is a household name for her amazing skills on screen, her humanitarian efforts off screen, and her vocal experience with breast and ovarian cancer. In 2013, impacted by the loss of her grandmother, aunt, and mother to breast cancer, Angelina tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation–meaning she had an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer over time. This discovery led Angelina to get both a preventive double mastectomy (surgery removing both breasts) and, later, a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgery removing ovaries and fallopian tubes).

Angelina’s decision was her own, but she did not keep her story private. Instead, she chose to give a voice to her experience and discuss her personal history with breast and ovarian cancer with the world with the hopes of making a positive impact on other women. In any of her personal storytelling about her experience (such as various op-eds she wrote for the New York Times), she always encourages women to be knowledgeable and proactive about their health, have conversations with their doctors, and be empowered to make personalized health decisions. Angelina’s openness has even been attributed to an increased number of women engaging in genetic testing and preventive surgeries. In short, Angelia Jolie made breast and ovarian cancer an open conversation, not a diagnosis to be afraid of–and for that, we give her a hero’s badge.

If you are feeling inspired by this week’s #WomenCrushWednesday, don’t stop here! Join our growing community of women who are becoming their own best breast and ovarian health advocates. Start your hero’s journey right now.  #WomensHistoryMonth #SelfCareandShare

 

Wednesday, March 28th

This week’s crush: Serena Williams

“Let me be clear: EVERY mother, regardless of race, or background deserves to have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth. I personally want all women of all colors to have the best experience they can have.” – Serena Williams

How she’s a hero: A fierce competitor on the tennis court and owner of 23 grand slam titles, Serena Williams is nothing short of a household name. After the birth of her daughter, Serena experienced complications including shortness of breath. Fearful and aware of her medical history with blood clots, Serena alerted her attending medical team that she was having a pulmonary embolism (a sudden blockage of an artery in the lung by a blood clot). At first, members of her medical team did not share Serena’s concerns and told her that she was experiencing medication side effects. However, Serena persisted that something was wrong–which ultimately led to a CT scan that revealed she was, in fact, having a pulmonary embolism. This was the beginning of many complications and surgeries that put Serena on bed rest during the first six weeks of motherhood.

Serena’s story of pregnancy-related medical problems is not unique. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 700 women die each year in the U.S. due to pregnancy and delivery-related complications, and these complications are even more common in Black and Latina woman. Serena’s story, and openness about her experience, has sparked a national conversation about these issues and has led women across the nation to be empowered to share their similar stories. So today we not only honor her for listening to her body and speaking up to doctors when she needed to, but for also helping other women do the same.

If you are feeling inspired by this week’s #WomenCrushWednesday, don’t stop here! Join our growing community of women who are becoming their own best breast and ovarian health advocates. Start your hero’s journey right now.  #WomensHistoryMonth #SelfCareandShare

______

Sources:

Assess Your Risk, Early Detection

In Honor of Women’s History Month, #SelfCareandShare with Bright Pink

How many of you have scrolled through your social media feed or read an article and seen the term “self-care” come up again and again? It seems the term is popping up everywhere in mainstream media, sparking a national conversation about women’s wellbeing and how women can prioritize themselves in a world where we are constantly being pulled in multiple directions at once. Self-care is certainly getting buzz, and for good reason! Taking care of Y-O-U is our greatest priority. But it can be hard to think tangibly about what self-care means for you and what actions you can take to practice self-care beyond taking a bath or cooking a healthy meal.

Throughout the month of March, in honor of Women’s History Month, Bright Pink will be inspiring women to self-care by prioritizing their breast and ovarian health. As we reflect upon our rich history of fearless females who have paved the way for better women’s rights and well-being (think Mary-Claire King, the woman who discovered the BRCA gene and transformed how we identify breast and ovarian cancer), we realize that it is now on us, the women of today, to extend the dreams and actions of health heroes of the past by playing a role in shaping women’s health of the future. After all, when women prioritize their breast and ovarian health, they are better equipped to be proactive health advocates both for themselves and the women they love.

All month long, we’ll encourage women across the nation to be their own health heroes and self-care by:

  1. Assessing their risk for breast and ovarian cancer using our award-winning digital tool, Assess Your Risk™, and
  2. Sharing the quiz with 8 women in their life to empower others to take proactive steps for their breast and ovarian health.

We’ll measure our progress as a growing community of women’s health heroes with a live map that tracks who has #selfcareandshare‘d by state. The map will demonstrate the number of women throughout the U.S. who have assessed their risk and are empowered to be proactive health advocates for themselves and the women in their lives.

Join us in making history this Women’s History Month by assessing your risk and sharing self-care with 8 women you love.

1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Together, let’s transform Women’s History Month into a conversation that honors the past and enables a brighter future for women’s health. It’s up to us, and there is no time like the present to get started.

Join our conversation this month by following Bright Pink on social media and using the hashtag #SelfCareandShare.

 

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