Detecting Cancer Early: My Personal Story

Of course I hoped never to get cancer again. But I am a realist as well as an optimist, so when I started experiencing unusual fatigue in May, I immediately got my cancer markers tested. Particularly since a traumatic loss had preceded my breast cancer diagnosis many years ago, and I had just experienced another loss, though less traumatic.

I also have the BRCA gene, and while genes are NOT destiny, they are turned on and off by other factors, including emotional stress. In my favor were excellent nutrition, decades of exercise, meditation and even daily exposure to Nature (Did you know it turns off stress hormones? Research proves it!).

I ran blood work as soon as I realized something was off. It had only been 2 months since my last blood work, but the differences were shocking. Based on a specific marker (CA125), it was clear that I had ovarian cancer, confirmed with a CT scan. Within days I had interviewed doctors and scheduled surgery.

It was Ovarian Cancer Stage 1, meaning it had not metastasized (spread) to other organs, or my lymphatics. I had surgery, and went on a wholly natural protocol to complete my healing (With breast cancer I did some chemo.). I am thrilled to say that now – just a few months later – I am healthy and thriving with no evidence of disease.

Anyone who knows about gynecological cancers knows that finding ovarian cancer that early is virtually unheard of.

After all, I could have attributed my fatigue to tough workouts, or the demands of my business, or “getting older”. I could have pushed myself to keep going until it became impossible to ignore. I suspect that’s what many women do.

Don’t accept feeling lousy as normal. Maybe your diagnosis isn’t cancer (I certainly hope not) but whatever it is, get to the root of it, find the underlying cause, and address it!

Fear clouds judgment. I understand that many women would have been terrified to find out what was going on. But if you let fear control you, you could stay in denial beyond the point when things are more simply addressed and healed. Get information, and take action. Denial can be life-threatening.

What to watch for:

Fatigue was my first sign that something was off. I vividly remember the overwhelming fatigue I experienced with breast cancer, which was so unlike “normal” fatigue.

Abdominal Bloating: My lower abdomen began to swell a little. Again, I could have attributed it to changes from my workouts, hormones, or aging. But it didn’t feel right to me, and I was suspicious. It didn’t feel like muscle, and it didn’t feel like fat. It felt “wrong”. It felt “not me”. Abdominal bloating of this sort is a key indication.

Bladder Pressure Between the time of diagnosis and the 10 days before surgery, the swelling increased a lot, putting pressure on my bladder, which woke me at night, also not usual for me. Pressure that results in increased urgency or frequency of urination is a symptom.

Swelling and inflammation in the abdomen can also cause changes in bowel movements and appetite, though this was not my experience.

Of course any of these symptoms could indicate other issues as well. Whatever the cause, do not ignore your symptoms!

Ovarian cancer is usually described as “symptomless” or “a silent killer”. But there ARE symptoms, just not ones that point unequivocally to ovarian cancer.

According to a survey by The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, 81% of women who had ovarian cancer realized in hindsight that their symptoms were present long before diagnosis, but were confused with irritable bowel syndrome, pre-menopause, stress, acid reflux, endometriosis, gall bladder issues or other ailments. Over 41% were treated for other conditions before being correctly diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

There is no screening for ovarian cancer. So many women I speak to believe pap smears test this, but that is for cervical cancer.

So pay attention. Your life might depend on it.

this article was featured as my Holistic Outlook column

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