September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. A North Judson woman is advocating for awareness on behalf of her best friend of more than four decades, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer five years ago. Jill Rhoda says Debbie Johnston was getting her kindergarten classroom in Fort Wayne ready for another school year and wasn’t feeling well.
“She noticed things like shortness of breath and feeling full after eating a little amount of food. She said she would feel full like she’d just eaten a Thanksgiving dinner. Fatigue, different things that can be attributed to so many other illnesses.”
Rhoda says Debbie was misdiagnosed for the first year and a half.
“She went on to get a second opinion, and that’s when they discovered that not only did she have ovarian cancer, it was already Stage 4. She had tumors which need to be removed. Her one ovary had already burst, and the cancer had spread through the lymph nodes. She also had a tumor on her diaphragm, which is what controls your breathing, moving your chest up and down, the size of a Kleenex box. So she has come through quite a lot.”
Ovarian cancer will not show up on a pap smear, as it is a test to detect cervical cancer. Rhoda urges women who experience symptoms like a swollen or bloated abdomen, difficulty eating or feeling full after a few bites, unexplained bleeding, pelvic or abdominal pain, or just a feeling of general fatigue to go to the doctor if they last longer than two weeks. She adds women are their own best advocates when it comes to their bodies and encourages them to speak up if they feel something isn’t right.
Ovarian cancer risk factors include a family history of the disease or other types of cancer. Also women who have never had a baby or are unable to become pregnant and who have used hormone therapy for menopause symptoms are at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. Visit http://www.ovariancancerawareness.org/ for more information.