I’ll be the first to admit that when I was 21 years old, I thought I was invincible. Not just me, but my family. As a junior in college, I was having the time of my life and had no intention of thinking about the world outside of the one in which I was living.
When the surgeon came out of the operating room and sat me down along with my Dad and older sister, we had no idea what the words “Stage IIIC ovarian cancer” even meant. How could my mother have Stage III, progressive ovarian cancer? She was healthy, and there were no signs? She was only having a biopsy on a small cyst in her abdomen.
Although, looking back now, there were signs, and she knew something was wrong. My mother was always very aware of her body and took excellent care of herself. She knew the signs of this disease because of her mother’s diagnosis of ovarian cancer at such a young age.
After multiple visits to the doctor to vocalize her symptoms, she was finally given a full abdominal ultrasound, where they located a cherry-sized cyst. When the doctors performed the biopsy, they found that cancerous tumors had developed in her ovaries and metastasized throughout her abdomen. We were given a prognosis of 18 months or less. We thought we could beat it, but we knew the survival rate for Stages III and IV was only 25-30 percent.
My younger sister was 13 at the time. How do you tell a 13-year-old she’s about to lose her mother? Not to mention, my entire world fell apart within a matter of seconds. At the time, I really believed I couldn’t live without her.
It’s been five years since I lost my mother, yet not a single day goes by where I don’t think about picking up the phone to call her. This disease took an incredible woman who dedicated her entire life to her family and friends, and as a teacher, to her students and their families. I had always known she was uniquely special and stood out from others, but I never quite realized the difference she made in so many people’s lives until almost 200 people came to give their condolences to my family. It was amazing to see.
September is ovarian cancer awareness month, and The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) is hosting its annual “Walk to Break the Silence,” on Sunday, September 12 in Annapolis. I will be running in honor of my mother, Arlene Richard, for the fifth consecutive year, and I encourage anyone who may be interested in this cause to participate. I am now dedicated to creating awareness of ovarian cancer in hopes that women will know and understand the signs and symptoms of this invasive disease, and I am working closely with the NOCC to reach as many women as possible.
More information on ovarian cancer can be found on the NOCC website at www.ovarian.org.
Editor’s Note: Jessica Treanor is a Lakelands resident.