Things have been absolutely hectic on this end, so I wasn’t sure if I’d even have a minute to produce a coherent post this week. I initially thought I’d talk about the yoga retreat I am headed on today. It wasn’t until I posted yesterday’s throwback on Instagram that it hit me.
Although it is my hope you’ll never need to worry about this stuff, I feel it is my duty to tell you how you can catch ovarian cancer early—even earlier than I did.
Below is a list of signs and symptoms, how I experienced them, and how my doctors perceived them. Please read with an open mind and feel free to email me with any questions you have.
Bloating. I had gastrointestinal issues for years prior to being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Bloating, constipation, gas, diarrhea. You name it, I had it. I saw a gastroenterologist regularly, had tests and procedures and my symptoms were always deemed to be a result of irritable bowels and food sensitivities. So when I was very uncomfortably bloated after our trip to Italy last September, I was not too concerned. I even saw a special gastro familiar with autoimmune diseases about a month before I was diagnosed with cancer. I asked him if he felt or saw any indication of a mass. He said no, and that the uncomfortable bloating was “just gas.”
Fatigue. As I talked about in a previous post, I was diagnosed with CFS in the fall of 2013, after seeking the opinions of over ten doctors on the exhaustion, brain fog, nerve pain, and weakness I experienced following the death of my father. Many doctors chalked it up to stress and anxiety, but I knew deep down that wasn’t it. There was something more, but it would take a genius (or at least a specific type of practitioner) to figure it out. An immunologist in my hood finally diagnosed me with CFS as a result of pernicious anemia and chronic active Epstein Barr virus. I was cool with that. She put me on a regimen of supplements, B12 injections, and a restricted diet, which all seemed to help temporarily. A band-aid on what would later be suspected malignancy (hindsight is always 20/20).
Pelvic pain. Fast forward three years, I ended up in the emergency room with severe pelvic pain—pain so severe, it hurt to stand upright and walk normally. The ER doctors considered it to be gastrointestinal issues (again) and sent me on my way. The following month, at my annual checkup, I mentioned the pain to my GYN and expressed my concern about ovarian cancer. I asked if there was a test, but there was no reliable method of catching ovarian cancer early at the time. No additional screening was done.
Vomiting. I was never really a “vomiter,” unless I was super sick with food poisoning or the flu. There were at least two instances since last January (2017) in which I found myself vomiting multiple times for no good reason. The first time, I thought it was because I’d eaten too many almond flour crackers. The second, I ended up in the ER needing fluids. Diagnosis? Food poisoning.
More fatigue. I remember walking my dog last summer and thinking, “Why am I so fatigued? I am too young to feel this tired.” Even though I was no longer working full time and was seemingly getting more rest than I had in fifteen years, I was utterly exhausted and would need to take frequent naps between yoga classes and other activities. This type of fatigue just did not make any sense to me, but there was apparently no other explanation. I was pretty healthy in blood tests and on paper. Was it just everyday stress?
Pain in legs. I noticed, especially when I was under more stress than usual, I would get this weird tingling nerve pain down my legs. Not sure if it was anxiety, but I no longer notice it since having surgery to remove the ovarian tumor last November.
Spotting. I would always get my period on time, every 28 days, to the minute. I could bet money on it. My last regular menstrual period started on my way up to Erica Stanzione’s Heal Your Heart retreat in Manchester, Vermont. I had my period for five days, per usual, but that wasn’t all. When I got home from the retreat, I noticed I was still bleeding. Not a lot, but enough to make me go “Hmm.” I knew spotting was a sign of ovarian cancer because my Aunt Laura experienced it when she was diagnosed many years before. Still, I told myself it was the change of season. I didn’t run to the doctor. Not yet, anyway.
Unusual discharge. About a day or so after I noticed the spotting, this strange fluid started coming out. It was yellowish brown in color, warm, and very much like urine. In fact, I felt as if I was peeing myself, but the fluid was coming from my vagina, not my urethra (a telltale sign that I needed a pelvic ultrasound on the double). I later learned this was ascites. I marched over to my GYN’s office without an appointment and was determined to get answers immediately.
The rest is history.
If you are experiencing any of the above, PLEASE do not wait another minute. Go see your doctor. Demand testing if you need to. Listen to your body and do not settle until you get definitive answers.
It’s been a little over two months since my last round of chemo and I’ve never felt better in my life. My heart is so grateful that I had the wherewithal to seek the answers I needed to survive.
If you have the time, please check out my YouTube video for more on how I was diagnosed early.
Wishing you all exceptional health and early detection.