I do this thing every year where I hope to draw attention to the fact that there is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. This thing is inspired each year by my darling Mum.
My mum was pretty fucking amazing… she was the most courageous, graceful, patient, loving mother I could ever dream of having.
When she told us she had cancer, every question had a shit answer. Did they catch it early? No. Could she just have surgery and it would be gone? No. Would she need chemo? Yes. Was it terminal? We don’t know (parent code for ‘It’s not looking good’).
A week later – the day after Mother’s Day – she was rushed in for surgery, and the waiting game officially began. Dad was in the hospital waiting, and I had my sisters and brother over to my house to wait. There were tears as the hours ticked by and there was still no news. I remember falling asleep with my phone next to my bed – the first time I had ever done this, but a practice I would continue to do for the next five years – and being woken by Dad’s call at around midnight to say everything had went better than expected and Mum was now in recovery. The relief in his voice was palpable.
She started chemo pretty soon thereafter. Every month for a full day. It was generally a Friday and Dad wouldn’t leave her side no matter what else was going on – it was like he checked his old life in at the doors of the hospital, to be there for his beloved. Eventually, it became my job to sit with Mum. The smell of that place; I’ll never forget.
The diagnosis? Stage four ovarian cancer. So advanced she wasn’t expected to survive the surgery – not unusual in this type of disease, as there are no real symptoms and no early detection test. They say bloating is a symptom – how many women suffer bloating at some stage or another over the course of a month? They say you are lower risk if you have children and have them early… Mum had four kids by the time she was 31, how many more did she need to have? They say it could be genetic – absolutely no history of this in our family.
Despite everything, we all remained positive. She was always more circumspect. She tried on a number of occasions to talk to me about things like choosing the jewellery I wanted to have, and about the importance of never letting anything come between me and my siblings… I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve wished I had the opportunity to ask her advice about this whole mothering bizzo, or just ask her if what I was doing was ‘OK’.
Mum fought hard for almost five years. When she passed away on 6 February 2013, she was at home, in her favourite chair, holding my hand. I swear I saw her smile as she slipped away – I’m sure she was headed to an almighty welcoming party thrown by Dad and Melly.
So, this thing I do every year to try and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer? It’s called Frocktober. I wear a dress every day for the month of October, and now I rope my daughter into doing it with me. If I can save one child from going through what I went through with my Mum, I’ve done my job. If you would like to donate to the OCRF, you can do so here: https://frocktober2017.everydayhero.com/au/kristiandkalee
If you’ve managed to read this far, please read a little further and take the time to educate yourself, your Mum, daughters, grandmothers, aunties, cousins, friends, nieces… you get the idea… on these key points:
- A pap smear DOES NOT detect ovarian cancer
- Being aware of ovarian cancer is not enough to save a life.
- Early screening is needed and right now there is NO early detection test
Women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer report four types of symptoms most frequently:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain.
- Increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating.
- Needing to urinate often or urgently.
- Feeling full after eating a small amount.