Tag Archives: cancer

Birthday Traditions

Today, June 11, would have been my aunt’s 60th birthday.  It might explain the pouring rain today.  She must have been camping somewhere in heaven.  I’d like to imagine that at 60 she would have been just as active as she had been 10 years ago.  Camping with Girl Scouts, traveling, and just doing what she loved doing.

I thought about her a lot today to be honest with you.  I thought about how we would always celebrate the June birthdays (my Aunt, my Mom, and I all had our birthdays in that order too) on a Sunday in June at my Aunt’s and Nana’s house.  I thought about how much the Daughter would have had fun at one of those little family gatherings.  I thought about how they were just nice days together, laughing, talking, genuinely enjoying each other.

The tradition has morphed a little since she passed.  We do a little more than just go to my Mom’s house and have lunch and cake.  We go and do something: bowling, 5 Wits at Patriot’s Place, Dave & Busters, and other fun times. It’s nice because it keeps me and the three brothers, and my sister-in-laws (The Husband’s sister often comes with her Boyfriend which is nice) close.  We have fun.  We laugh.  We still keep that sense of family – something that is so very important to me.

Mom's Birthday Fun 2012

Mom’s Birthday Fun 2012

In addition to that tradition, I have my own personal tradition that I have started since the passing of my aunt.  She lost her battle to cervical cancer on January 12, 2010.  Now, twice a year, on that date in January and on her birthday, I like to remind people to take care of themselves.

If you haven’t made your annual doctor appointments, call and make them.  If you need to have your annual pap test, schedule it.  If you need to have your annual physical, schedule it.  Get your blood work looked at. Get screened for skin cancer.  Get your prostate checked.  Don’t lose the best defense you have – EARLY DETECTION!

gynecologic cancer

My aunt discovered her cancer too late, as often is the case with gynecological cancers.  Trust me – after my own freakish cyst managed to grow to the size of a grapefruit, unbeknownst to me, in less than six months – think about what it could have been if it had been undetected!  Gynecologic cancers are tricky because so many women write them off as cramping or as bloating from something they ate.  In my case, I thought it was just because I was overweight and it was just one more reminder to focus on Weight Watchers.  Scarily enough, no…it wasn’t.  Men often do the same thing.

GYN_symptoms_matrix

Know your body.  Know what’s normal for you.  When something is not up to your normal standard, talk to your doctor.  Ask questions.  Doctors are not scary mean people.  They are there to keep you healthy.  They like patients to take an active role in their healthcare.  Before my surgery, I went in with a list of written questions just because there were so many unknown factors.  The doctor thought that was wise and she took the time to answer every single one and then some!

So, dear readers, in honor of my Aunt, take the time to take care of yourself.  Your loved ones don’t want to say good bye too soon.  They want to celebrate your 60th birthday with you.  They want you to be around to laugh with them, talk with them, and maybe play laser tag at the next family birthday get together!

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Filed under Cancer Awareness, Family Activities, NaBloPoMo

Remember

It’s been three years.  Three years ago, on January 12,  my aunt died from cervical cancer.

My Aunt meeting the Daughter for the first time.  Her smile just shows how much she loved my little girl!

My Aunt meeting the Daughter for the first time. Her smile just shows how much she loved my little girl!

I know I have written about her before but I feel like it’s my duty to remind people of her battle because if one person gets a pap test because they read her story, then she will have been able to help one more person.

My aunt was a kind and caring woman in the truest sense of the word.  She never married and had no children of her own but she gave so much to so many.  Not only did she love me, my brothers, and my cousins as if we were her own kids, but also she was always giving of herself to her Girl Scouts troop.  She was always there for us: for advice on life, for concerts, for graduations, for birthdays, for everything really.  She was proud of all of us.

She taught me so many things from how quilt to how to hike safely up a mountain.  She also taught me the value of kindness by showing me how doing kind works was more important than just throwing money at a problem.  By doing small acts of kindness, you can change big problems, just look at all the girls she helped when she was so active in the Rhode Island Girl Scouts.

In Memory ♥

In Memory ♥

I miss her.  I miss how she loved playing with the Daughter in the few months she got to play with her.  I miss how she would have been able to talk to me about careers, travel, music, life.  So many things, little things, are missed and on certain days, I feel them more than others.  This past week, I have been feeling all kinds of things that if the Long Island Medium were to encounter me, I don’t doubt that she would have a reading for me.

Her illness seemed to come on pretty quickly.  One day she was ok and doing all the things she normally did.  Then what seemed to be overnight, she was feeling not good, though she didn’t talk about it much with anyone.  I saw the weight loss though.  I saw her in pain from her hip.  I knew that she was not well. It was hard for anyone to not notice it.  It just all happened so fast.  Cervical and Ovarian Cancer does that though.  They both start out without any symptoms – a very scary thought.

I know that this post may seem a bit heavy, but my point is this.  Schedule you annual Pap Test.  If you’re one of my gentleman readers, please encourage the women in your lives to schedule their annual exams and then promptly please schedule your own appropriate cancer screenings.  These exams and that simple test are enough to catch cancer in its earliest stages.  Often, with Cervical and Ovarian cancer, once you start to feel the symptoms it’s often too late to do much in terms of treatment because the symptoms are brought on, most times, when the cancer has spread.  This is why early detection is life saving.

GYN_symptoms_matrix

It’s ten minutes (at most for the entire exam and test) of discomfort versus a long, drawn-out, painful battle.  If you have never been for a GYN exam, ask a friend who has gone to go with you.  They don’t have to go into the room, but they can if you want or need them to.  They can even just talk to you about it and tell you their own experiences.  I know it sounds funny, but I know a lot of women who aren’t fond of going and avoid it if they can.  The problem is they CANNOT avoid it.  It’s so important to get regular screenings.  They really do save lives.

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Filed under Cancer Awareness, Family

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

Every month seems to be an awareness month.  A ribbon of color is placed somewhere and people talk about it for a week or so and then the awareness fades.

For me though, this month’s cancer awareness is something that hits home for me on a few levels and that is why I talk about it a lot to everyone and anyone who will listen.

September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month.  This month focuses on women’s cancers: Ovarian, Cervical, Uterine, Vaginal, and Endometrial Cancer.

Let me tell you why this particular month is important to me.

When I was four months pregnant, it was time for my annual PAP.  They took the swab and sent it off.  I didn’t think anything of it.  I had always had normal test results.  I was more focused on my pregnancy and all the other things going on in my life at that time.  When I got the call that there were some abnormalities, cervical dysplasia to be exact, I didn’t know what to do, what would come next, or how this would change my life (if at all).  These cells themselves are not cancer cells, but when left untreated, they turn into cervical cancer.  Early detection of these cells is the most important thing and is what saves hundreds of women’s lives every day.

I was really scared.  I was pregnant and things were not 100% ok.  Thankfully, I had a great OB/GYN and she and the rest of the doctors at the practice were fantastic.  They helped me get through my pregnancy (which was not easy since I ended up with pre-eclampsia) and two months after I had my daughter, I had to have a colposcopy.  Not really knowing how to talk to someone about this or even knowing anyone who had gone through this, I was terrified since I am the kind of person who gets afraid of the unknown.  I went to the colposcopy procedure, completely nervous, afraid of the potential pain, the side effects, the recovery.  Luckily, the procedure wasn’t as bad as I anticipated, just a little mild discomfort but no real pain.  It was over relatively quickly.  The doctor did the biopsy and then the waiting game began.

Those days, waiting for the results, were the longest days ever.  They were most likely compounded by being a new, sleep-deprived, emotional mom but let me tell you, those days sucked.

The doctor called with the results that I was going to need to have a LEEP procedure.  Talk about scary.  The pamphlet the doctor gave me was nothing short of terrifying.  They talk about how they use an electric current to scrape the abnormal cells from your cervix.  Doesn’t that sound fun?  Well, let me tell you, it was not.  Anytime you need to be grounded before they start a procedure, it’s a nerve-wracking experience.  This procedure took a lot longer.  They had to numb me up and then they used this little metal loop that runs an electric current through it that scrapes the bad cells off your cervix.  The whole time, you feel this weird buzzing.  My doctor was fantastic because she kept telling me “25% done; 50% done; 75% done.  Just a few more seconds.” I really consider myself lucky because of the medical professionals I have access to.

I am glad I had LEEP procedure done and the bad cells removed.   Every year, I go and have my annual PAP and wait for the results.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous every time I am waiting for results.   So far, I have not had any abnormalities.  I am thankful every year when I get that letter with the check-mark next to that top line “Your PAP results were normal.”

Now, while all of this was happening, my aunt had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer.  I was seeing first hand what happened when this went untreated.  I was seeing the pain, the strength needed to go through the chemo, the toll it took on this active and vibrant woman.  It was so hard to not be angry that she didn’t catch this sooner and could have avoided having to go through this.  We didn’t talk about it.  It just wasn’t something we talked about.  When she lost her fight, it hit me harder than anything else I had ever experienced next to the birth of my daughter.

I think that’s partially why I feel like I need to talk so much about it.  So many women don’t have anyone to ask about these things.  So many women are afraid to ask the questions.  So many women don’t understand how a simple swab once a year can save their lives.

This Friday, I have to go in for some tests on a cyst that has formed on my ovary.  I have PCOS or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome.  It’s a fun syndrome that results in all kinds of awesome symptoms.  I’m hoping that the cyst they found when removing my gallbladder is just something from the PCOS but there is a possibility that it’s something more.  I’m not going to mess around with it.  I’m going to go and have the tests needed and if I need to have it surgically removed, so be it.  I’m just going to chalk it up to 2012 – the year I got healthier.

If one woman reading this gets a little better understanding of the procedures that may be needed and is a little less afraid of them, then this blog post has done what it was meant to do.  So ladies, if you haven’t been to the GYN recently (like in the last year), call their office and make an appointment.  Don’t be afraid of it.  Don’t be ashamed of it.  Five minutes of uncomfortable pressure is worth more than months of chemo.  Gentlemen, if you have a woman you love, don’t be afraid to ask her if she’s had a check-up recently.  Talk to her about it.  Let her know that you support her.  (And also, make sure you go for your regular cancer screenings too!)

Talking about cancer and the different procedures is important too.  People need to lose the fear and nerves over the different tests and procedures.  If you have had a procedure, share your experience.  Let people know how you handled it.  Sharing your story could save a life!

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