Spotlight on Health (World Cancer Day)

Posted on: February 4, 2010

Today is World Cancer Day.  This is a topic near to my heart.  A year ago, my mother checked in to the hospital due to difficulty breathing, which she had been living with for weeks thinking it was some kind of a cold.  After draining 2.5 liters of fluid from in and around her lungs, doctors reported that she’d almost died of a pulmonary embolism, caused by something yet more sinister – late-stage ovarian cancer.

Needless to say, this was an earth-shattering blow.  Like many women in their sixties, my mother had been experiencing increasing back pain, bloating, constipation, unusual fatigue…the kinds of things ALL women experience at one time or another, usually due to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, or the like.  Six months earlier, she was given a vague diagnosis of IBS with a recommendation to consider getting imaging done to be sure it wasn’t anything else.  Anything else.  Someone said it – it was out there – but it didn’t really register, and the doctor didn’t insist.  So life went on, and it wasn’t until my mother’s lingering cold-like symptoms became a concern that she consulted again with her primary care physician, and was swiftly hospitalized, saving her life.

It’s been a difficult year.  Chemotherapy and major surgery, followed by more chemotherapy, a break, and chemo once again.  During this time, the one bright moment was the birth of our son, the second grandchild, and it’s been through the kids that we’ve been able to find our smiles and gather positive energy for battling this devastating disease.  The prognosis remains grim, but I am continually inspired by my mother’s physical and spiritual strength, and am committed to raising awareness for ovarian cancer – “the silent killer.”

So this Valentine’s Day, I urge you all to consider Health as a a gift – to yourselves, your families, and friends.  Take significant time this month to review your family medical history.  Share health-related stories with your children and those close to you.  Assess your habits – good, and bad.  Quit smoking!  Schedule your annual exam.  Many modern diseases are highly treatable with the help of prevention and early detection.

Excellent basic information on ovarian cancer and other gynecologic cancers can be found online but should not substitute for a conversation with a specialist.  Women approaching menopause should be particularly alert to the symptoms, and discuss individual risk, since these cancers are in a category being scrutinized for genetic links.  Conflicting information abounds regarding possible connections between hormone replacement therapy and gynecologic cancers.  While evidence is still somewhat inconclusive, it’s an important question to raise with your doctor, especially if alternative therapies can be substituted with similar results.

Links for Ovarian Cancer info online:

–  Ovarian Cancer Research Fund

–  Ovarian Cancer Overview from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas

–  Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

And some great grassroots support resources that could use cross-links or donations:

–  Blog for a Cure

–  Mothers With Cancer

Again, a disclaimer: Mama Gaga is not a doctor!  Please consult appropriate specialists as you take charge of your health.


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