Monday, September 15, 2014

Cancer Sucks

Having a bad day?  Follow the link below for some perspective.

What Pediatric Cancer Looks Like

Every 3 minutes a parent hears that their child has cancer.  Every.  Three.  Minutes.  I can't even comprehend that.  Reading some of those accounts from parents of their child's battle with cancer is enough to make your own problems seem pretty minimal.  It's also enough to make you sick to your stomach, with grief, with sadness, with fear.  

Let me start with this prayer: Please God, do not ever let that be me.  No parent ever wants to hear that their child has cancer.  No one ever wants to hear that they have cancer. Unless you've been in that situation, I'm sure you cannot even begin to describe the horror, the despair that you feel.  

The evil word is everywhere.  CANCER.  Reading that article made me aware of September being Pediatric Cancer Month.  September is also Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  Two very different types of cancer, different groups affected.  But all of those diagnosed are someone's child.  Whether their child is 5 or 50, no parent wants to hear that their child has cancer.  

Ovarian Cancer is an especially evil beast.  Its symptoms are commonly associated with other conditions, particularly for the age group most at risk.  Bloating, abdominal pain, problems with urination- all symptoms that could be completely unrelated to cancer.  But they also could be related.  Many women ignore the symptoms or attribute them to something else- menopause, irritable bowel syndrome, just general aging.  That's why Ovarian Cancer is known as the whispering cancer- it's symptoms don't speak loudly, they don't render you incapacitated.  They whisper to you that something is wrong.  As women, as natural caregivers, we put the needs of others before our own.  We explain away or rationalize our physical and emotional issues.  That is why ovarian cancer is often caught too late- because women are more worried about taking care of others than themselves, and when they do finally seek out help it is often too late. 60% of women diagnosed are already in Stage 3.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, but accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. It is estimated that there will be about 15,000 deaths from ovarian cancer in the United States annually, a rate that has changed little in the last 50 years. It is estimated that about 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in the United States annually.

Ovarian cancer has affected my family on a personal level.  About 10 years ago, my mom's cousin Patti received her diagnosis of Ovarian cancer.  She was a kind soul with a soft voice and a huge smile.  Patti and my mom were the same age, always sharing stories of their extended family vacations as kids.  My mom apparently even closed a car window on Patti once.  I can still hear them laughing about it.

Patti, at left in red, her sister Diane (behind), and her mom Flo
Patti's diagnosis hit us all hard.  She was so young, so full of life, such a happy, loved spirit.  How was it possible that she could have such an evil beast growing inside her?  Her diagnosis affected no one more than her own mother, my dear (great) Aunt Flo.  Aunt Flo, like Patti, is one of the kindest, sweetest, most loving individuals that you could ever hope to meet.  She was in her 80s at the time- can you imagine, living 80 or more years, burying your husband, only then to find out that your youngest child, your sweet daughter has cancer?  I saw my Aunt Flo struggle with the diagnosis, struggle to come to terms with what Patti was facing.  They were inseparable, Aunt Flo and Patti.  Trips to the mall, vacations, family meals, always together.  Patti's diagnosis was so unfair.  We all stood to lose so much.

Patti, her father Russ, and her sister Diane
And we did.  Patti lost her battle with Ovarian cancer in February of 2006.  I flew home for her funeral, and I remember it shattering me to my core.  She had become so frail, so unrecognizable, since I'd last seen her.  Her being the same age as my mother really was hard for me.  It could have just as easily been my mom, or anyone else's mom or sister or friend.  Cancer had taken so much from her, from our whole family.

Patti's picture in a mural collage for those affected by Ovarian Cancer
Patti's last months on this earth were good to her (if that's even possible).  She had met the love of her life, Jim, at work many years before.  Their friendship blossomed into more, and not long before her death, they were married.  Hospice made her comfortable, and I know that being married to her love was what she needed to finally go to God in peace.

Like others, Patti's symptoms were easy to attribute to other things.  If she'd been diagnosed sooner, could it have saved her, or at least given us more time with her?  It may not have made a difference, and obviously we will never know, but I know it has crossed the minds of those Patti left behind.

Every year, our family honor's Patti and her memory by walking in the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition's Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer.  We honor and pray for those diagnosed, who wear teal shirts.  We pray that they have a better outcome than Patti did.  We miss her, every Thanksgiving, every wedding, every family picnic, every day.  Our family has never been the same and never, ever will be.
Patti's Peeps 2013

My hubby Chris and I at the 2013 NOCC Walk 
Patti's Peeps 2014
I have used this blog to try to educate others on postpartum depression, to try to spread the word on seeking help.  Today, I am making the same plea, but to a different audience. Please, educate yourself on Ovarian Cancer.  It's symptoms, who is at risk, what to do if you experience symptoms.  It could be you, your wife, your mother, your sister, or your friend. The more we educate, the less women will be lost to this evil beast.

We miss you, Patti.  Thanks for the cherry salad.  <3

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