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.
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 Assess Then Act.
Listen up to your instincts. If you think something isn’t right, call your doctor. Who knows, it just may save your life. It saved mine.
One of the most impactful ways to protect yourself from an ovarian cancer scare is to become ovarian self-aware. Knowing your risk factors, like family history, physical features, and daily habits is the first step.
This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, we’re encouraging everyone to #AssessThenAct: take the Assess Your Risk quiz, and then create a preventative action plan to protect your health. Get started in just 5 minutes today.
MORGAN BELLOCK is a Public Relations professional living in the Chicago area. You can get in contact with Morgan at [email protected]