Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Help STOP the Silent Killer!
Ovarian Cancer is known as the silent killer, as it is extremely hard to diagnose because the symptoms are also common in women who do not have the disease. As a result, only 20% of the 21,650 cases this year will be diagnosed early. Unfortunately, the remaining 80% will be diagnosed at stage 3 or 4, when successful treatment becomes more difficult.
Such was the case of Karen Hanna, whose journey with Ovarian Cancer began in 2012 at 41 years of age. Karen noticed her body was changing and out of sorts–she didn’t feel normal anymore. She noticed stomach distension and weight gain around her waist for no apparent reason. Her primary care doctor couldn’t find anything, so he sent her to the OB-GYN, thinking her female hormones were low. She then went to see an endocrinologist –they all wrote it off as “probably perimenopause.”
About 6 months later (2013), Karen was exercising one morning and felt a pull and a protrusion above her belly button. This time, she got a diagnosis of an umbilical hernia. During her surgery, her surgeon saw something unusual in Karen’s hernia sac. It turned out to be papillary serous carcinoma– Ovarian Cancer.
Most all cancer fighters agree that there is no word in our vocabulary to adequately describe the utter shock and dismay one feels at hearing a cancer diagnosis. However, her surgeon assured her she would be OK, as he was referring her to one of the best Gynecological Oncology teams in the country at the Stephenson Cancer Center in the heart of Oklahoma at the OU Health Sciences Center. “My Gyn/Onc explained the surgery and the treatments I would have with compassion and hope. She understood how overwhelmed I felt and treated me with kindness and respect.”
“These calm assurances, combined with my strong faith, gave me confidence that I would be OK and I would beat this! I also like winning. Like the Navy Seals I have read about, I refuse to give up. I believe cancer is more mental than physical. What your mind believes, your body will follow.”
So, through seven and a half years filled with extensive rounds of multiple chemo treatments, multiple surgeries and two clinical trials, Karen has kept an ever-positive, unrelenting belief that she would overcome this disease. Finally, good news has come.
Since February of 2020, she has been on maintenance chemo and is living a full and rewarding life with “an endless flow of blessings and miracles along the way.” These include a wonderfully supportive family and church community, and a friendship she formed with Tarah Warren, Tenaciously Teal founder and ovarian cancer survivor.
The two cancer fighters met when both were receiving chemo treatment. Tarah was rolling her IV through the infusion clinic and handing out the Care Packs she made for other cancer fighters.
“Tarah was about four months ahead of me in treatment and became a source of inspiration and information. It was so comforting to find someone closer to my own age who I could talk to and ask questions. When my treatment ended we met for dinner one evening and talked about our journeys and about the nonprofit she formed to expand her mission of bringing love, comfort and encouragement to people fighting cancer. I told her then I wanted to be on her board because I, too, wanted to give back!” Karen has been a board member with Tenaciously Teal since its founding.
Karen feels that she and many other women who have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed might have discovered their cancer earlier had their physicians asked about their family history of cancer. Her father, who had prostate cancer, was a carrier of the BRCA1 gene, which leads to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Her mother had breast cancer twice, and both sides of her family have a history of cancer. Family history can be a red flag and a useful diagnostic tool.
YOU CAN HELP Stop the Silent Killer by forwarding this story to your friends and family, so more of us can detect this disease early when it is most successfully treated!
You can also help by donating to Tenaciously Teal to further our mission of increasing awareness of the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer and the importance of being proactive in seeking a diagnosis!
Together, we can beat this disease that has claimed the lives of nearly 14,000 women this year.
Persistent & Common Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer
- Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
- Difficulty Eating or Feeling Full Quickly
- Urinary Urgency or Frequency
Less Common Symptoms
- Back Pain
- Pain with Intercourse
- Menstrual Irregularities