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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.

 

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 

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