Signed, "Tealed," Delivered and How You Can Help in Less Than Two Minutes
In 2006, I learned that I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation which puts me at a higher risk for both breast and ovarian cancers (same mutation that Angelina Jolie has). Nearly every woman on both sides of my family has had breast cancer twice so this is the cancer that I thought I might get one day. Since there are good screening tools for breast cancer, I wanted to prevent ovarian cancer and at this time, the only option to significantly reduce the risk is preventive surgery. In September 2011, I had a prophylactic oophorectomy – a surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes in an effort to prevent ovarian cancer as much as possible – but instead of being a preventative measure, I learned that I had late stage ovarian cancer. I had cancer and I didn’t even know what the awareness color was because I was all about the pink beforehand due to my family history. I quickly learned that TEAL is the color of awareness for ovarian cancer and that it has several acronyms including Take Early Action and Live as well as Tell Every Amazing Lady about ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer symptoms are vague. I had none of the known “BEAT” symptoms – Bloating, Eating and feeling full quickly, Abdominal pain, and Trouble urinating or with the bowels. There are other symptoms including low back pain and fatigue. My only symptom was chronic fatigue which was new and different for me and, in hindsight, was definitely my indication that cancer was looming. I had numerous thyroid tests and was told to get more sleep by my doctors because I was “too young” to have ovarian cancer even though I have a genetic predisposition for it. WRONG!!! ANY female, regardless of age, is a potential ovarian cancer patient.
The problem is that there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer and it is the deadliest of all gynecological cancers. It cannot be detected by a PAP smear (that is for cervical cancer only) and its symptoms can mimic other gastro issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. We need research and education for both women and the medical community to be aware of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer because mortality rates have not changed in the last 40 years. In fact, statistics say that I will not live to see my teenager graduate high school. However, if the cancer is caught early, survival rates are 90%. Sadly, ovarian cancer is rarely detected early. Most cases are detected when it has spread and that is exactly what happened to me. Only 35% of women diagnosed at this point will survive five years.
After learning that I had cancer, I had traditional chemotherapy that included an additional experimental drug. This put me into remission for just over two years. I recently learned that the ovarian cancer is back and I desperately want to see my teenage son’s high school and college graduations so I’m going to keep fighting the beast that is ovarian cancer. I will once again begin another chemotherapy regimen and I am blessed to have many supportive people around me who have offered their help.
Here is what EVERYONE can do to help and it will take less than two minutes:
- We need funding for ovarian cancer research, education, an early detection test, and better quality of life for current treatments.
- I have been to Washington DC a few times in the past few years to ask our Maine legislators for funding for ovarian cancer research and awareness. However, we just don’t have the numbers of ladies to physically go to Capitol Hill because women are too ill to travel or are no longer with us.
- Please write to your legislators NOW (see the link below with an already composed email) before they recess for August and tell them that ovarian cancer research and education is important to you.
- Also, there is a request to officially designate September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (followed by October where the world turns pink) because there is a link between breast and ovarian cancers – if a woman has one cancer, she is at an increased risk for the other. There is no cost for this designation but it is so important to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms.
- Follow the link below and enter your zip code. The email is already written but you can alter it to tailor your own personal message. Cancer is not a partisan issue and all cancer research benefits all cancers in some way.
- In addition, Maine Senator Susan Collins sits on the Appropriations Committee. Please also ask her to support the Department of Defense funding of $20 million for the Ovarian Cancer Research Program which does innovative research. (Breast cancer has made huge strides due to its much larger Department of Defense funding and we need this for ovarian cancer research.) The Appropriations Committee is marking up the budget this week so please send your emails!!!
No woman is too young to get ovarian cancer - 3-yr old girls, teens, moms, and grandmas are all potential cancer patients. If you are a woman, know a woman, are a mom, daughter, niece, grandma, or great-grandma, please help by sending your message stating that research and education for this insidious disease with dismal survival statistics is important to you.
Thank you for your support and in September, let’s show our TEAL in creative ways to help raise awareness of ovarian cancer!
Seana Roubinek has a varied background including working for the world's largest airline and two different properties of a 5-star hotel chain. While working for the hotel, she caught the "culinary bug" so she went to culinary school in New England. She graduated with honors and worked as a baker in several places. "Life" happened and she found herself needing a job with weekends off which meant seeking a total career change. She found employment with a web-based medical partnership company. She loves her new career and still gets to donate her culinary skills to her true passion - helping to feed people in the community. She resides in the midcoast with her son and a menagerie of adopted animals from the local animal shelter.