AFTER HURRICANE IAN

The recent storm, hurricane Ian, left devastation to many. Lost property, loss of lives, and large economic impact.

So many homes lost...where will the people go?
Dreams destroyed...how to rebuild them?
Transportation...how to safely travel by car?
Food, clothing, basic possessions lost...how to replace
Family photos and momentoes...irreplacable!

HOW CAN WE HELP?

               

Thank you for your help and your prayers.

WRAPPING UP SEPTEMBER

The last three days of September are a mixture of uncertainty and joy. Hurricane (Himicane) Ian is creating a large amount of uncertainty and it has yet to reach land here in Florida. The different models are now in agreement it will land in Florida, but exactly where is unknown.

Regardless of where “he” comes ashore, “he” is going to create havoc throughout most of the state. I think of the 3 pigs and the big bad wolf. The one pig had a house made of straw, the second one made of sticks, and the third pig’s house was made of bricks. Just as in real life, the wolf is portrayed as a hurricane that will blow down those homes that are not as sturdy. Flooding and storm surges are a threat to any house, and tornadoes that are within the hurricane can destroy even the “brick homes,” but less likely.

My joy in September is the beautiful support people have given as they have learned more about gynecologic cancers. On Monday I received a call from a friend whose cousin was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This lady is an RN and has worked in hospice for many years, but did not know about the symptoms of ovarian cancer. This is the very reason why I (and others) work so hard to get the message out.

My deepest thanks to each of you who read my blogs, donated to my “Teal Takeover” fundraiser, and forwarded the information to your friends and family members.

Let’s be like the pig who built a house made of bricks: he educated himself to know how best to protect himself. We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves from the storms of life and share our knowledge with others.

WOMEN SPEAK OUT

Meet 5 amazing women who share about thie journeys with one of the gynecologic cancers:

LYNN’S STORY: Uterine cancer survivor. Diagnosed at age 32. Symptoms: change in the menstrual cycle, fatigue, then profuse vaginal bleeding. She was diagnosed with clear cell carcinoma and had surgery and radiation. Her advice: I learned to write down all my questions in a notebook and take that with me—and to take someone else with me to hear it. Listen to your body—it does tell you things. Don’t pooh pooh something. It’s really just about listening to your body. It’s about knowing yourself.”

TIFFANY: Ovarian cancer diagnosis at age 32. Bloating and unexplained weight gain were the initial symptoms. The doctor ordered an x-ray and an upper endoscopy, followed by a CT scan one month later. A hysterectomy was performed followed by chemotherapy. Tiffany wants women to know that the PAP smear does not detect ovarian cancer. My advice to women would be listen to your bodies; don’t assume that it’s just nothing. Make sure that it’s just nothing. Remember you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else!

ANA R.: Cervical cancer diagnosis at age 36. Abnormal vaginal bleeding. For 8 years she had abnormal PAP smears and she was not told she had HPV. After some surgeries and chemotherapy, Ana is cancer free. I want women to know they need to take care of themselves. Don’t skip your annual exams, and if you feel something is amiss with your body, don’t worry about bothering doctors or upsetting them. This is your life! I also want people to know that my generation could potentially be the LAST generation to have cervical cancer. We can eradicate this disease by vaccinating our children, daughters AND sons. This is my mission now: to share my story so that others don’t have to go through what I went through.

TERESA: Vulvar cancer diagnosis age 40. Her symptom was a large and hard bump, which required two surgeries to completely remove the cancerous bump. It was caused by the HPV virus. Teresa stated Vulvar cancer might manifest in a way that causes shame, because you could conclude that you have an STD (sexually transmitted disease) and not want to get that embarrassing news. But I’d much rather be embarrassed and alive than modest and dead. Early detection is key. And if you have children who are preteens or teens, please get them vaccinated against HPV.

SARAH: at age 38 diagnosed with vaginal cancer. Her symptom was spotting after intercourse. She tested positive for HPV. Her treatment was radiation and chemotherapy. My message to other women is this: ask your doctor about Pap and HPV tests. Screenings are important to catch any problems early, when they are more treatable. Do not let fear, embarrassment, or shame prevent you from finding the help you need. You are not alone!

Thank you for reading these stories. For more stories go to https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/ovarian/stories/index.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/stories/index.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/vagvulv/stories/index.htm, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/uterine/stories/lynn.htm

WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THIS AREA…

We don’t talk about the vulva…the forbidden area. Today’s discussion might make some of the readers uncomfortable, embarrassed, or giggly. However, it is an important area that is too often ignored.

As far back as 3000 BC, statues show the male penis, but not the female labia. The same is true in ancient Greek and Roman times.

What is it? Where is it?

  • The vulva is the outer part of the female genitalia
  • Part of the female reproductive system
  • It includes the labia majora, labia minora, and the clitoris.

Cancer of the Vulva

  • Most of them are squamous cell carcinomas, which is more commonly seen in older women.
  • Adenocarcinomas most often start in the cells of the Bartholin glands, which are at the opening of the vagina.
  • Other cancer types found in the vulvar region are melanoma, sarcoma, and basal cell carcinoma.

The message is: do not ignore this important area of the body.

  • Once a month, take a mirror and check the skin for any redness, swelling, or rashes.
  • Avoid HPV infection
  • Condom use reduces the risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Get the HPV vaccine.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Get regular pelvic exams

The female body was designed as a source of pleasure, fertility, movement, strength, and well-being. (Christine Northrup)

REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM: INTERESTING FACTS

On my walk yesterday morning, I watched the mother Wood duck lead her newborn chicks across the water. The beautiful male was nearby. Watching them inspired me to jot down a few interesting bits of information.

IN THE HUMAN, DID YOU KNOW?

  • There are about 100-200 million sperm in each ejaculation
  • At birth, there are about 1-2 million eggs.
  • At puberty, there are about 300,000 eggs
  • Fertilization normally occurs in the fallopian tubes
  • Eggs travel from the ovary through the fallopian tubes to the uterus.
  • Fallopian tubes are about 12 cm long and as wide as a threading needle.
  • The male sperm is the smallest human cell; the female egg is the largest human cell.

INSECTS: Most reproduce by laying eggs. The eggs are produced by the female in a pair of ovaries. Sperm, produced by the male in one testis or more is transmitted to the female during mating by means of external genitalia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insect_reproductive_system

Carl Linnaeus in 1771 used the scientific symbols of Mars and Venue to denote the male and female reproductive systems.

GYNECOLOGY-ONCOLOGY

  • In January 1968, Hervy E. Averette, MD, and John J. Mikuta, MD, identified a need for the creation of a medical society focused solely on gynecologic oncology.
  • As of 2019, there were 1,157 gyn. oncologists in the U.S.
  • There are 113,000 new cases in 2021.
  • Rural areas have limited access to these specialists.
  • Education: 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency, and then 3 years of gynecology oncology.

The daffodil symbolizes a new birth. Always have a bouquet of yellow daffodils…one flower means misfortune. Yellow symbolizes joy.

Information gives us power, appreciation, and understanding. The human body’s beauty, capabilities, complexity, and simplicity are fascinating. Each of us has a responsibility to take care of, nurture, and cherish our bodies. As Maya Angelou stated:

EVEN THE FAMOUS ARE NOT IMMUNE

A person’s fame or fortune does not protect them from getting a serious illness…even cancer. They are humans just like us.

Some celebrities who were diagnosed with one of the gynecologic cancers:

  • Fran Drescher…uterine cancer
  • Kathy Bate…breast and ovarian cancers
  • Judith Blume…cervical cancer
  • Pam Grier…cervical cancer
  • Camille Grammer…endometrial cancer
  • Shannon Miller…ovarian cancer

Most recently, tennis star Chris Everett was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her older sister, Jeanne, passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 62. By the time she was diagnosed, the cancer was at a late stage.

Like her sister, Chris has a pathological variant of the BRCA1 gene.

For Chris, the cancer was discovered after a hysterectomy, which was done as a preventive measure. However, 10 days later a second surgery was performed to remove some lymph nodes and surrounding tissue. The pathology report showed malignant cells. She was staged at 1C.

Her advice is imperative: “Be your own advocate. Know your family’s history. Have total awareness of your body, follow your gut and be aware of changes. Don’t try to be a crusader and think this will pass.

This article is courtesy of https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/33058250/tennis-star-chris-evert-diagnosed-stage-1c-ovarian-cancer

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES & CANCER JOURNEYS

 KAREN ZEMPOLICH, MD, a gynecologic cancer physician in Utah, named her practice, the Monarch Woman’s Cancer Center. “Women who have cancer are very much like a butterfly; they start out vulnerable and worried about whether they are going to survive the journey,” says Zempolich. “In this way, they are cocoon-like – emotionally and physically.”

Monarch butterflies travel to Mexico every year. According to the U.S. Forest Services, some travel as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter destination, even though they have never been to that country before.

“I feel the name really captures what we do when we help a woman; not only to treat their cancer but live through it and move on,” Zempolich explains. “We work to fight the cancer together, with the vision that they will emerge as the strong, beautiful butterfly they have within them all along.”

I saw this monarch butterfly in my garden a few weeks ago. Their beauty, their lives, and their journeys are an inspiration to everyone. Let’s be like a butterfly as we face our challenges of cancer…be strong, resilient, and fighters.

BREAST & OVARIAN CANCERS

IF YOU HAD BREAST CANCER, YOU ARE AT GREATER RISK FOR OVARIAN CANCER. IF YOU HAD OVARIAN CANCER, YOU ARE AT GREATER RISK FOR BREAST CANCER.

WHAT IS BRCA?

  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that help repair damaged DNA.
  • Every human has both genes
  • They are called tumor suppressor genes
  • About 0.25% of the population has mutated genes
  • They can be passed down to the next generation.
  • A family history of breast or colon-rectal cancer is linked to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • Risk for ovarian cancer from BRCA1 is 30-70%.
  • Risk for ovarian cancer from BRCA2 is 10-30%.

Knowledge is power. Know your family history. Know your body. Know the symptoms: bloating, abdominal pain, change in urinary or bowel habits, change in appetite, painful intercourse, unusual or bloody discharge. Act on any symptoms and see your gynecologist within 2 weeks.

MOST FEARED WORD?

Cancer, death, heights, spiders, and snakes are words that create great fear. People associate cancer with death almost immediately.

HISTORY OF CANCER:

  • The earliest known descriptions of cancer appear in several papyri from Ancient Egypt
  • Hippocrates described several kinds of cancer, referring to them by the term καρκινος (carcinos), the Greek word for crab. It comes from the appearance of the cut surface of a solid malignant tumor, with “the veins stretched on all sides as the animal the crab has its feet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_cancer).
technologynetworks.com

GOOD NEWS:

SAD NEWS:

  • 113,520 women in the United States will be diagnosed with cancers of the reproductive organs in 2020.
  • Cancer of the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus, is the most common gynecologic cancer.
  • Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
  • It is estimated that as many as 33,620 women will die in 2020 from gynecologic cancers. https://www.cinj.org/sites/cinj/files/documents/September.Gynecologic.Cancer.2020.pdf

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF:

  • know your body
  • listen to it
  • provide it with good nutrition
  • exercise
  • hygiene
  • Daily meditation/relaxation
  • preventive care
  • know your family history
  • have regular dental and medical checkups
  • and smile, laugh, and be positive.

The more we do the above, the more we can decrease the fear of the word, cancer. Thank you!

MY JOURNEY…

My journey began in the shadows. A bloating abdomen changed my planned destination. Surprisingly, cancer was my unwelcome travel companion. At times the tracks were in such darkness, I could not see. Questions, doubts, and fear were on all sides until I decided to find a purpose.

So, I…

chose the track of sunshine; of light. Faith, knowledge, and love surrounded me as I kept my eyes on the sun of God.

Knowledge is power. Faith gives us strength. Purpose puts us on the right track to follow. We can outshine.

For the Teal Takeover, my team is called the Outshiners. Come and join my team as walk/run “together” bringing knowledge to others about gynecologic cancers. https://www.classy.org/team/446017