Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ovarian Cancer Check

I went to see my gynecologist recently for a regular check-up and to ask about some symptoms I've been having on and off for the past several months. I wanted to check for ovarian cancer because once you've had breast cancer, your risk for ovarian cancer goes way up.

Ovarian cancer has a fairly low survival rate because it's usually diagnosed at a very late stage. The symptoms are common to other, mainly harmless health conditions, so most women wouldn't get checked out for ovarian cancer until it's too late.

- Pressure or pain in the abdomen, pelvis, back, or legs
- A swollen or bloated abdomen
- Nausea, indigestion, gas, constipation, or diarrhea
- Feeling very tired all the time
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling the need to urinate often
- Unusual vaginal bleeding (heavy periods, or bleeding after menopause)

These symptoms could be caused by PMS, urinary tract infection, food poisoning, or even over-eating. I've had most of these symptoms in the past few months so I went to see my gynecologist.

I had an ultrasound of my ovaries and a PAP smear to check for cervical cancer. All clear. I do this same check every three months now.

The most worrisome thing the doctor told me was about the fluid retention and abdominal bloating that most cancer patients seem to have a few weeks before they die. She said that when cancer cells get into the abdominal cavity, they cause fluid to build up inside the cavity. This fluid is full of protein that the body can't absorb. The fluid is drained out to give the patient some relief from pain, but it also drains out the protein the body needs. So the organs start shutting down and the patient just wastes away. I guess that's the cachexia I've talked about in past blog posts.

This has happened to three women I know of who had liver metastasis (spread) from breast cancer. For all three, it was a matter of weeks from bloating to death. So of course I'm going to be worried if I have the slightest bit of bloating in my tummy, which I've had on and off for the past several months. But cancer bloating doesn't come and go as mine has, so I don't think I'm at that critical stage yet.


writerinresidence said...

Hi Shin,
And I hope that critical time never comes... just occurred to me to wonder whether someone in your large and very supportive network of friends and family might have given you to watch or shown you The Secret DVD? I saw it recently, found it quite extraordinary and wondered what you thought...

Shin said...


Several people have recommended "The Secret" to me and someone has given me the audiobook version. I haven't gotten around to listening to it yet.

But I have to confess, it's really not on my list of priorities. The advertising for it says that "you will learn how to have, do, and be anything you want." Call me arrogant, but I don't need some book to tell me how to live or get what I want out of life.

How did people become so insecure that they need some stranger with a formula to tell them how to live life - a formula that's supposed to work for the entire human race, with no acknowledgement of individuality and the uniqueness of each human being?

In fact, I find this type of self-awareness life coaching stuff an insult to my intelligence.

Sorry. I have to be honest. I get to be honest out loud before I die.

Alanna said...

I with you, Shin. I think The Secret is nonsense, and cruel nonsense at that.

writerinresidence said...

Hey Shin, I thought you'd say that or something like it. And that's fine. But what I feel the takeaway of things like The Secret, stripped of all its market spin and press release waves, is just the benefits of staying positive inside, expecting the best possible outcome, no matter what happens, and paying heed to the link between the mind and body. There is still something to be said for that, I think. Unfortunately, the rather pernicious money-making hype of it does tend to get in the way....

Shin said...


I agree about the "benefits of staying positive inside, expecting the best possible outcome no matter what happens, and paying heed to the link between the mind and body", but I think you can see this without being told to see it by a book written by a stranger who doesn't even know you.

The problem I have with these so-called motivational, inspirational books, seminars and such is that they pretend to give people something they already have.

People have the power and strength to get what they want out of their lives but in the past several decades, an entire self-help industry has appeared to tell us that we can't handle the stresses of life on our own, that we don't have the strength to make our own decisions, that we need somebody else to tell us what to do, think, and feel.

I realize that some people do indeed need therapists and counselors and self-help programs for a variety of reasons. But not nearly as many as those seeking outside help and guidance.

I know a number of people who are strong and smart but somehow, they let themselves be talked into thinking they're weak and lost. I think it's sad that they've been robbed of their self-confidence and faith in themselves.

To be fair, I don't think it's all "pernicious money-making hype". I think some of these people offering help and insight truly believe they're helping others. I'd be more willing to think they're not purely motivated by money, however, if they donated some of their profits to charities.

writerinresidence said...

I guess some people, like you, see it more easily than others. On the other hand, a lot of people need more help seeing it for themselves - even though something is quite plainly - apparent.

Shin said...


Fair enough. But not you. You're smart, kind, and you're a great mom. You don't need anybody's help recognizing that! ; )

Albalydia said...

My name is Alba Griesbacker and I am currently a Project Manager for Rob Horowitz Focus Groups. We are a market research company located in NYC, our main purpose is to recruit consumers and medical professionals to participate in focus groups.

We currently have a client (What If Innovation) that’s conducting an Ovarian Cancer Research Study the week of October 12th – 16th. They would like to speak with a range of women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and are willing to share their experiences with them. They would like to get a better understanding of what it is like to be a patient: what experiences they go through, what special needs they might have after their diagnosis, how these needs are met and where things could be improved.

The interviews will be for 2 hours at the patients homes, hospital, coffee shops, wherever the patient feels comfortable. They will receive $250 for their time.

We operate to the Market Research Society Code of Conduct, which guarantees confidentiality and anonymity to respondents. All we are looking for are your thoughts and opinions.

Thank you.


Alba Griesbacker
Rob Horowitz/ Rhoda Schild Company
Tel: (212) 779-3633
Fax: (646) 519-2470