This morning I awoke to the news that we have said goodbye to an amazing, strong, bright light in our area far too soon. This incredible young woman was diagnosed with the disease known as the ‘Silent Killer’ – Ovarian Cancer, and she didn’t back down from the incredibly difficult fight that would follow.
While some diseases and forms of cancer are well known and regularly discussed, Ovarian Cancer stays hidden in the shadows, an evil secret that we stay far too silent about.
The Canadian Cancer Society released a report stating that in 2017 2,800 Canadian women will be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer, and it will claim the life of approximately 1,800. What does this really mean when you compare it to the other cancers that we hear about regularly? Ovarian cancer is the 5th most common cancer among Canadian women and carries the highest mortality rate. Shocked? You aren’t alone….
The high mortality rate can largely be blamed on the fact that this disease is diagnosed in the later stages for the most part. There are a number of factors that go into the rate of late diagnosis, some that are out of our control, and some that we have the power to fight back against if we put the effort in… The symptoms are pretty generic, often explained away as being any number of other ailments or situations right down to mere menstrual cramping. This often causes women to hold off on seeking medical advice, or to simply not notice that something is genuinely ‘off.’ Combine that with the fact that there is no reliable test to detect ovarian cancer, and it’s not surprising that the medical community struggles to catch it early in many cases.
There is, however, one factor we CAN control. One of the largest women shrug off the signs is that they simply DON’T KNOW. You see, we live in a society where, for some reason, discussion of gynecological disorders and diseases is a huge taboo. There is an abundance of pink everything discussing the concerns of breast cancer (I’m not saying that as a bad thing, I’m happy people are aware, just frustrated with the double standard), openly discussing the health of our boobs on the radio, television, magazines and the internet. However, don’t you dare talk about your concerns with ‘down there.’ It’s like it’s some forbidden area that will curse you for the remainder of your existence should you utter its name… think Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort – Ovarian cancer is the Lord Voldemort of the cancer community.
A few years ago, I made the decision to put my story out there. My husband and I were preparing to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for Ovarian Cancer Canada and I decided that I was going to take the opportunity to try to put a younger face and story to the disease in our community. I was in the newspaper, I spoke on the radio, I was involved with our local charity walk and I quickly found myself all over the Internet. It was a little intimidating at first, however, there were two different types of responses that drove me to keep going – those that were also sharing in this battle and reached out to connect with someone who would understand, and those that felt the need to message me appalled that I would just ‘put my private business out like that.’
Why is our gynecological health such a huge taboo? Ok, for those of you that this may shock, prepare yourself: Women have Vaginas (gasp!) AND our reproductive system isn’t always going to be 100% healthy, it can be hit with disease, infection, and illness just like every other part of our bodies. Ok, I know, the ground is shaking around you and you’re trying to figure out how to process this information. I have faith that you can work your way through this…
The easiest way each of us can help to beat this silent killer is simple – break the silence. Talk about it openly, share information, educate others. Now, men, this includes you too! These are your girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters, aunts, cousins, friends….
As Ovarian Cancer Canada says – Knowledge is Power!
It is important to note that in the early stages the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may be very slight, or non-existent. It is our responsibility to know our bodies and pay attention to what they may be trying to tell us. This graphic from Healthy Women.org outlines the most common signs and symptoms. Please feel free to save and share this information across your own personal social media accounts! Remember – the more we talk about it, the more we fight back against the silent killer!
Today, in honour of yet another beautiful teal warrior, and all who came before her, let’s start a wave that reaches the corners of the internet – Each time you share this information you empower women to fight back. It may be as simple as sharing the above graphic, but know that sharing that one image may provide the knowledge that a woman requires to save her life!
The power is in your hands!