This guest post was first published in 2016 but it is a message that is very important and should be repeated regularly. My thanks to Karen Ingalls for sharing her story and also the symptoms all women should be aware of.
Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest forms of the reproductive system. Karen is an ovarian cancer survivor and therefore supremely qualified to write this article.. The post carries an important message about understanding how our bodies work and how we should be on the alert for anything that seems out of the ordinary.
OUTSHINING OVARIAN CANCER by Karen Ingalls.
I am a retired registered nurse and had very limited education about gynecological diseases and cancers. From working in hospice I only knew that ovarian cancer is the deadliest one of all gynecologic cancers. My journey and initial diagnosis with ovarian cancer is not an unusual one.
I had gained a few pounds and developed a protruding stomach, both of which were unusual for me since I had always bordered on being underweight. When my weight continued to increase, I began an aggressive exercise and weight-loss program. I never considered these changes to be anything more than normal postmenopausal aging.
I saw my gynecologist for my routine PAP smear, which only determines the presence of cancer cells in the cervix. She could not get the speculum into my vagina and when she palpated my abdomen she felt a mass. I was rushed to get a CT scan, which revealed a very large tumor in my left lower abdomen. Two days later I had an appointment with a gynecologic-oncology surgeon for an evaluation.
A week later I had a hysterectomy by the gynecologic-oncology surgeon from which I learned the tumor was malignant. It is critically important that such a specialist in this field of oncology perform the surgery. They are experts and know what to look for and how to safely remove any tumors.
My surgery involved removing the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, omentum, ten lymph glands for microscopic investigation, and ten inches of my colon where the tumor had grown into. I am blessed that there were no cancer cells in my lymph glands or other organs. Two weeks later I was then started on chemotherapy for six rounds.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and common to many women so they are often ignored or attributed to something more benign. Most physicians do not consider the possibility of the presenting symptoms to be related to ovarian cancer. Often the woman is sent from one specialist to another, which I call the “Gilda Radner Syndrome.” With each passing day the cancer is growing and putting the woman at greater risk of being at a more terminal stage.
These are the most common symptoms:
- Abdominal bloating
- Pain in abdomen
- Low back pain
- Frequency of urination
- Changes in bowel habits
- Increased indigestion or change in appetite.
- Pain with intercourse
- Unusual vaginal discharges
- Menstrual irregularities
If a woman experiences any of these symptoms for two weeks, it is recommended that she see her gynecologist and insist on an abdominal ultrasound and a CA125. The only laboratory-screening test currently available is a CA125 blood test, which unfortunately has a high incidence of false positives. We women need to be our own advocates and demand these inexpensive tests.
If the ultrasound and possibly a CT, MRI, or PET scans reveal a tumor, then in my opinion the woman must see a gynecologic oncologist. Typically the woman undergoes a debulking surgery, which is a complete hysterectomy and removal of any lymph nodes or any suspicious surrounding tissue or organs. The only way to accurately determine if cancer is present is through specimen testing of the tissue.
The risk factors are:
- Family or self-history of breast, colon, ovarian, or prostate cancers
- Eastern Jewish heritage (Ashkenazi)
- History of infertility drugs
- Never been pregnant
- BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 positive mutation
- Older than 60
I was staged at IIC and given a 50% chance of surviving 5 years. I had no family history of ovarian cancer and only one relative who had had breast cancer. I did not fit the typical criteria, and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 markers were negative for mutation. So the question, “Why did I get ovarian cancer?” remains unanswered and it is actually not an important one any longer.
The word cancer creates fear in everyone either mildly or extremely. Yet so often the things we fear are never as great as the fear itself. As a young person I had learned from my grandmother and adopted aunt that attitude, acceptance, and determination are the keys to facing a fear and to healing the body, mind, and spirit. Those women were, and still are today, w strong role models for me. They taught me about living a healthy lifestyle, which included a belief in God, exercise, good nutrition, positive thinking, healthy touch and meditation. These lifestyle choices had helped me face childhood abuse, divorce, alcoholic parents, and untimely deaths, and now they have helped me live with cancer.
I prefer to use the word challenge instead of problem, test, or trial. I like the word challenge because I envision positivity, learning, growing, and putting my best efforts forward. I did not think about being cured of the cancer, but more about how I can live my life with dignity, and what I am to learn from this new role as a woman with cancer. A family friend, Dr. LaJune Foster once said, “Look about for each bright ray of sunshine: cherish them, for in the days ahead they will light your path.” I deeply believe in this way of living.
I wrote about my journey with ovarian cancer to educate, support, and inspire women and their families. It is my own unique experience, but there are some common emotions, events, and experiences that all cancer survivors share. Like many others traveling this road, I have experienced valleys and mountaintops, darkness and rays of sunshine. I do not know what the future holds for me, but I have learned a lot about myself and met some incredibly courageous women.
The challenge of ovarian cancer was an opportunity for me to become a better person. My life is far richer and has the greater mission, which is to spread the word about this lesser known disease. I truly see each moment as a gift that is not to be taken for granted, but lived to its fullest with love.
An important lesson I learned with the challenge of ovarian cancer is that the beauty of the soul, the real me, and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation. It outshines any negative experience.
©Karen Ingalls 2016
About Karen Ingalls
I might be a retired RN, but I am an active and enthusiastic writer of non-fiction and fiction. It took a few years before I was willing to show that deeper part of myself. I love to get lost in the world of my novels and let the creative juices flow. I have written several articles for medical and nursing journals. I enjoy researching and discovering new information.
I enjoy writing for my two blogs (www.outshineovariancancer.blogspot.com and http://www.kareningalls.blogspot.com). The first one is about health/wellness, relationships, spirituality, and cancer. My second blog is for authors and avid readers who wish to be interviewed, do a guest blog, and be promoted. I have “met” so many interesting and enchanting people, who have done guest posts for me; or those around the world who follow my blogs and leave comments.
I was thrilled and honored to be recognized as a runner-up at the Midwest Book Awards and then receiving first place in the category of “women’s health” at the National Indie Excellence Awards. The greatest reward is when a reader shares how my book(s) inspired them, taught them something, or brought a deeper awareness about life.
When Karen Ingalls was diagnosed with Stage II Ovarian Cancer, she realized how little she knew about what was once called ”the silent killer.” As Ingalls began to educate herself she felt overwhelmed by the prevalent negativity of cancer. Lost in the information about drugs, side effects, and statistics, Ingalls redirected her energy to focus on the equally overwhelming blessings of life, learning to rejoice in each day and find peace in spirituality.
In this memoir, Karen is a calming presence and positive companion, offering a refreshing perspective of hope with the knowledge that ”the beauty of the soul, the real me and the real you, outshines the effects of cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation.”
Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir is a story of survival, and reminds readers that disease is not an absolute, but a challenge to recover.
One of the recent excellent reviews for Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir
Outshine’ by Karen Ingalls is a memoir of strength, faith & resilience in the face of Cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 2 Ovarian Cancer & this book is about how she tackled the cancer or as Ingalls puts it ‘the big C word’. This is a memoir penned by a strong woman who did not buckle down in the face of ‘the big C word’. I admire her husband Jim who was a great support to her during this situation. I don’t think I would ever be as brave as Ingalls if I ever was detected with a fatal disease. Kudos to her for her perseverance & faith in the Almighty. Ingalls’ book is tender, inspirational & full of wonderful soul stirring quotes at the end of every chapter that can make your day brighter. She shows herself to be a woman of spirit & a woman who has taken the cancer she was a victim too as a life lesson or a test sent to her by the Almighty to make her a better human being. Kudos to her on that point. This book is interactive with a set of excellent questions at the end of the book which can be used for discussion purposes at any book club or any place where books about Cancer survival are discussed. I highly recommend this book to anyone & everyone who needs a bit of sunshine in their lives. I also highly recommend this book to Cancer patients, survivors & care givers. I hope to read more books by Ingalls in the near future, especially her novels which she wished to write after her chemotherapy was over. Do support this book & happy reading to you
Read all the reviews and and buy the book:https://www.amazon.com/Outshine-Ovarian-Cancer-Karen-Ingalls-ebook/dp/B00KI1HGZI
Also by Karen Ingalls.
Read the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Ingalls/e/B009KT5QWY
And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Karen-Ingalls/e/B009KT5QWY
Connect with Karen on her websites and social media.
My thanks to Karen for her detailed and inspirational post and it would be great if you could share the message on your own networks.. thanks Sally