Near the end of summer each year, families start getting excited for the beginning of school, cooler weather, pumpkin lattes, and football season! Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the gorgeous splattering of the trees’ colors spread over the landscape. I have fond memories of playing in piles of those leaves on fall nights while my mom served goodies she and I had made to my dad, uncles, and cousins after their long days in the field harvesting crops. Fall has brought many good things to our family. My husband and I were married in September, we moved into our new family home last September, and this has been an especially exciting fall as my oldest started kindergarten!
But amongst the excitement this time of year brings, heartache also lingers.
In August of 2008, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. That September she started her treatments. Had her first surgery. Began her battle. She fought HARD for almost four years. I miss her still, every.darn.day. In a tribute to my mom on the third anniversary of her gaining her wings, I posted something on my Facebook page along the lines of, “Three years ago my mom lost her battle to ovarian cancer.” My dear, sweet husband disagreed with me:
“I wouldn’t say she lost the battle. She passed the fight along to you.”
Just this once, I’ll let him be right.
I’d give everything I’ve ever owned to have my mom back. But ovarian cancer took her from me when she was just 58. The day I said goodbye to my mom I promised myself that I would funnel that frustrated energy gladly spreading ovarian cancer awareness to friends, family, coworkers… even complete strangers. I’ll raise money for cancer research. I’ll offer support, encouragement, and references to those fighting the battle. And I’ll pray — pray that one day a cure for cancer is found.
Spreading awareness for ovarian cancer has become an unexpected calling for me. But I’m not about to let my mom down. So please, give me two minutes. Put down that latte, turn off the football game, and listen up.
September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Twenty-one thousand women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year. Do you know the symptoms? Does your mother, your sister, your aunt, or your best friend?
Other symptoms can include
- the need to urinate often,
- upset stomach or heartburn,
- back pain,
- pain during sex,
- constipation, and
- menstrual changes.
Most women know their bodies well. They know when something is not right. Pay attention to your body and remember the symptoms. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have concerns. Just recently, my family had another ovarian cancer diagnosis — my aunt was diagnosed. She experienced bloating and stomach pains. She also mentioned she had a very uncomfortable feeling when her golf cart would hit bumps. She knew her body, she knew something was uncomfortable, unusual. So she asked her doctors questions and had tests. She is my mom’s brother’s wife, not blood relation to my mom, so heredity is not a factor in them both being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We love her dearly and will fight along with her!
Speaking of heredity, for those with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, knowing your BRCA status is powerful. “Hereditary cancer occurs when a gene that normally helps to prevent cancer is altered (or mutated). People with hereditary cancers are more likely to have relatives with the same type or a related type of cancer. Inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and other types of cancer…. An altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation can be inherited from a person’s father or mother. Each child of a parent who carries a mutation has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation” (Source: National Ovarian Cancer Coalition).
If you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, asking your doctor about BRCA gene testing is important. It is a simple blood test. I was tested after my mom was diagnosed. Waiting (a few weeks, as I recall) for the test results was brutal. I remember where I was when my doctor called and told me I was negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2. What this means is that it is unlikely that I carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. Though my chances of getting ovarian and breast cancer are much lower than if I had tested positive for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, it does not mean that I cannot get cancer or should stop regularly seeing my doctor.
In a world of second chances, the finality of losing a parent when you still need them so much is shocking, heartbreaking, debilitating. Please, help me spread ovarian cancer awareness. Help me save the life of someone else’s mom!
Meet Guest Blogger Jill Garton
Wife to Tim and mom to five-year-old daughter Gabryel and one-year-old son Jack, Jill is an Endangered Species Biologist. Born and raised in small town central Iowa, she graduated from Iowa State University before spreading her wings in Kansas City and Tucson. Upon starting her own family and learning of her mom’s cancer diagnosis, Jill returned to the only place that ever really felt like home. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, doing bike rides and art projects with her kids, and sampling the local restaurants on date nights with her husband.