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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, 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! 

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