The Signs and Symptoms

So many of my girlfriends ask me about how I knew there was something wrong?  What was the sign? or symptom?  In hind sight, could I have caught it earlier?

Such great questions!  As women we need to discuss this more.  We need to be open and honest so we can start saving our mothers, sisters, wives, nieces, aunties, friends, etc...

This is also so frustrating!  My symptoms were so unremarkable.  The most troubling symptoms was heartburn - really terrible acid reflux.  I took tums and zantac but maybe I had an ulcer?  I had just gotten married and wedding planning was likely one of the most stressful events in my life (more than my doctorate or my cancer diagnosis).  Don't get me wrong - I love being married and love my husband but planning a big wedding is SO not my thing!

My ONLY other sign was some mild bloating.  It didn't really come or go and wasn't affected by food.  It was just mild distension - like I had gained weight.  Which was highly probable as we JUST spent 2 weeks in Italy and Greece eating pasta and pizza and drinking wine more than once per day.  It was highly probable I gained weight.

I get asked about periods a lot.  Didn't they change?  More frequent?  Painful?  Sporadic?  I have had an IUD for several years so I haven't had a period in years.  It's wonderful but wasn't a clue for this diagnosis.  I have regular PAP smears which are all normal, because a PAP will only help diagnosis cervical cancer, not ovarian or uterine. 

There was something that did tip me off!  The mild bloating wasn't really alarming but when I touched my stomach and applied a bit of pressure, it was tender.  Such a subtle symptom but something that set me off to think - this isn't right.

As women, I think we need to listen closer for that gut voice, your soul voice.  That something that says "something isn't right here."  I've been an athlete my entire life so I've always been in touch with my body.  I'm also very self-aware so when something is off, I know.  Even for me - from when I started having mild symptoms to when I first saw a doctor, it was about 2 weeks.  I consider that about as fast as you can see a doctor for such non-specific, mild symptoms. 

I wish I could share a more obvious sign or symptom with you.  But that's just the nature of the ovarian cancer beast.  The signs and symptoms aren't obvious.  Their sneaky and subtle and this is why we loose so many brave and strong women.  The answer?  More research + more funding = better detection methods = better survival.

amydee [pharmd]