Today is my mother’s birthday. A day where I would send a ton of text messages about getting old, getting over the hill, and about organising a nursing home etc.
But this year these messages won’t be exchanged.
There won’t be a present bought.
There won’t be a card.
There won’t be cake, or candles, or bunting.
There won’t be a single bit of contact between us.
Her last (and final) birthday was celebrated in her hospital room in the Galway Clinic, the room in which she lived out her final few months. It wasn’t so much as a celebration as an acknowledgement. An acknowledgement on our part that this would be the last time we would get a chance to wish her a “happy” birthday, and an acceptance on her part that is was the way it would be. I’ve no doubt that later that night, after we all had said our goodbyes and once alone in her room, tears were shed. Accepting her fate, didn’t make it any easier.
It is hard to face a birthday of a loved one no longer with us. Even harder when you think that had diagnoses been quicker, those texts may have still been sent, those cards and presents bought, and family and friends could still be celebrating. But that is the cruelty of those two words: “what if?”.
I write this, not to look for sympathy, nor do I look for messages of support etc. I write this to see action. To see women I know, or may not know, get checked and have their medical concerns addressed.
Ovarian Cancer is one of those which is regularly misdiagnosed, thus often leading to late diagnosis. Read up on the symptoms and share them. Be aware of your body. Be aware of changes and ACT. Get screened for those which there are currently screening available.
SOCK, a voluntary organisation, compiled the following information regarding ovarian cancer on their website (http://www.sock.ie/).
Fact 1: All women are at risk for ovarian cancer.
Fact 2: Awareness of the early warning signs of the disease may save lives.
Fact 3: Diagnosis at an early stage vastly improves a woman’s chance of survival.
Fact 4: Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed at a late stage.
Fact 5: Many women mistakenly believe a cervical smear test will detect ovarian cancer.
‘Know Your Body Know the Symptoms’
The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be very vague and they often appear at a late stage. For this reason it is important to “Know your Body, Know the Symptoms”. Keep an eye on what is normal for your body and take note of symptoms that persist. These symptoms include:
Persistent swollen abdomen
Pain or dragging sensation in your lower abdomen or side
Vague indigestion or nausea
Poor appetite and feeling full quickly
Changes in your bowel or bladder habits. For example, constipation or needing to pass water urgently
Abnormal vaginal discharge or bleeding (rare)
Ovarian cancer generally affects women over the age of 40; however it can affect women much younger. It is important to visit your GP if you are worried and voice your concerns.