I am so excited & proud to introduce you to Sharon Blynn. Sharon created a fantastic website Bald Is Beautiful. She is a survivor who reaches out to others and inspires them. Sharon was kind enough to write a post about her experience for my blog. Please read her story, visit her website and help her spread awareness! We are all in this together.
We Are Ovaries, Hear Us Roar! She goes by “The Whisper” or “The Silent Killer” — these sound more like low-budget horror movie titles than the statistically-earned monikers of a disease! But she is scarier and much more deadly (believe me, I’d rather have blown $15 on a movie ticket and valvoline-drenched popcorn!). As you may sense from those nicknames, ovarian cancer is a dodgy lil’ beeyotch! Her symptoms are vague and most often missed — or misdiagnosed — as anything from endometriosis to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS is the most common misdiagnosis) or dismissed as plain ol’ gas or constipation. After all, no one wants to jump from thinking they are just bloated or have a bad stomach ache to thinking it might be cancer! And there is currently no screening test, general or specific, for ovarian cancer. You read that correctly: none — yet.
I was diagnosed at 28 years old with a rare form of ovarian cancer (I was initially misdiagnosed with IBS before heading in the gynecological direction). “Hold on just a second! I’m too young to have cancer!! What the @#&*#?!” After exploratory surgery and a week later the full abdominal “unzip”, came the diagnosis: Stage 3-C ovarian cancer. Late-stage ovarian cancer at 28. Good job, Sharon. Being the overachiever I am, I had not just any cancer or even a more common, treatable/survivable one; I had a cancer whose successful treatment statistics are about the same as guessing right in a shell game (at least it feels that way). Plus, with a rare form of it, I had to cut those stats in half! After surgery, a panel of doctors basically voted on whether or not chemo would even be effective for me. Because of my age and the fact that I hadn’t had children yet, by majority rule, we went more aggressive and I began a 6-month prescription of chemotherapy — which was interrupted by recurrence and another surgery, false remission for a year, and a final surgery in January 2003. This year marks my 5-year cancer-free milestone!
While there have been many developments and advances in the ovarian cancer chemo cocktail (a cocktail not nearly as fun as a mojito or margarita!), the most vital and imperative research we must implement is early detection for ovarian cancer. We can’t cure this disease being blind while she isn’t speaking up to be heard on time.
Early detection is the most powerful treatment for any cancer and it is imperative that we generate awareness and funding for this kind of research for ovarian cancer. As is stands today, more than half of ovarian cancer cases are discovered late-stage. And though the number of diagnoses is less than other more heavily-researched and publicized forms of gynecological cancers, due to late-stage diagnosis, it has the number-one highest fatality rate among gynecological cancers.
Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer, said, “Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to.” Strangely and unexpectedly, the word “elite” is accurate for me. I feel very special for having had — and survived — ovarian cancer, and my life has been transformed in the most beautiful and exquisite ways that I could never have imagined. The journey inspired me to create Bald Is Beautiful (www.baldisbeautiful.org), through which I have dedicated my life to bringing information, inspiration, comfort, hope, encouragement, and empowerment to others on the cancer journey.
Still, while I survived and was able to find positivity and deep healing in the process, I would be happier if we could prevent others from having to face this disease without the benefit of early detection and more refined & successful treatments.
Thank you for letting me share and for reading! And remember: always smile from the inside out!
SOME EXTRA BYTES: Visit GILDA’S CLUB for my favorite cancer support organization in the world!! Support for patients (men, women, children with any form of cancer) and their friends/families/caregivers. www.gildasclub.org