Deirdre's story: 8 secrets to fighting the silent killer
Updated: Aug 11, 2019
Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the silent killer. Today, we help you recognise the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and share the tips and heart-warming love story of ovarian cancer thriver Deirdre and her husband Charles.
The silent killer
Because my relatives had never survived cancer, my diagnosis of ovarian cancer stage 3a seemed a sure sign that it planned to kill me.
Deirdre is the first one to admit that she didn't know the symptoms of ovarian cancer until she was diagnosed with it. She warns us that those signs are often hidden or mistaken by women and doctors as something unrelated.
How was I supposed to know that only eating a few bites and feeling full fast was a sign of something that wanted to kill me?
Know the signs
According to the American Cancer Society, symptoms are more likely if the disease has spread, but they can also manifest in early-stage ovarian cancer. There is no screening test for ovarian cancer (the pap test - or pap smear - detects cervical cancer).
Common symptoms of ovarian cancer to watch for:
Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain
Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
Feeling like you have to pee often or urgently
If you're experiencing any of those symptoms, keep calm and talk to your doctor - especially if those symptoms persist over 2 weeks or worsen. Bear in mind that those symptoms can also be unrelated to ovarian cancer.
Other symptoms include:
Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
Pain during sex
Period changes (e.g. heavier or irregular bleeding)
Abdominal (belly) swelling with weight loss
Deirdre's 7 secrets to fighting ovarian cancer
Knowing the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and talking to your doctor about your concerns are the first steps to early detection. If you've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, here are Deirdre's 7 tips to inspire you on your journey to wellness.
1. Choose happiness over fear
We can't change what has already happened. We can't change the bad stuff... the diagnosis. What we can do is control how we react - we have a choice; I choose to be happy.
2. Find someone or something worth fighting for
Charles reminded me that I promised to grow old with him, I dug deep to agree to chemotherapy - while I was still recovering from a hysterectomy and double oophorectomy. I knitted and wore funky hats, and we laughed - a lot.
3. Notice any improvements in side effects
Charles took such good care of me, we've been a team through it all, we approached much of the side effects like a science experiment - carefully aware of when the side effects improved. That's proven helpful to my sanity.
4. Find a medical team that you trust
Many years earlier, I saw mom physically devastated from chemo and side effects - I never expected to agree to it. But the doctors believed it was the right treatment for my cancer. I was living and fighting to keep on living longer - I wanted to enjoy living and I wanted those around me to enjoy being around me, too.
5. Look back at how far you've come
My first doctor appointment was for severe pain. After my CT scan showed a 17 cm mass, I had a surgery the next week and was diagnosed 2 weeks later. In October 2016, I started chemo - 6 rounds, 3 weeks apart. I'm grateful to have survived all of that - grateful that my CT scan post chemo showed that I was in remission.
6. Walk your own path
It's hard knowing that some people don't survive. Remember that no matter how alike the people are or the cancer is, their path is not your path. Always remember that some people do survive. Even when the survival rate may be low, those numbers do represent actual people who survived.
7. Laugh to lower stress
What's changed for me? The doctors said to lower stress. I've tried to find different ways to keep my stress down. Laughing about things helps.
8. Put your health first and accept help
I've learned to put my health first and accept help - that's the biggest change, but all of these have been important in my surviving. People want to help - it's best when they offer specific help, but be ready to tell them what you need. You'll need help, it doesn't have to relate directly to your treatment.
Deirdre and Mel