It was a beautiful morning; the breeze was cool and I woke up in great spirits. I went for my jog, returned to a delicious breakfast, and went on to get ready for university. I was two weeks away from my 23rd birthday. Sometime around lunch-break, something did not feel right. I’ve been running for two months now and I have started to know my body pretty well. For a few weeks now, I noticed that I was getting slower, but on that day, I was also tired, and I felt a vague pain in my lower right abdomen. I tried to ignore the pain. For the next few days, the vague pain multiplied and I grew tired, constipated, and bloated but one day during my morning run, I knew I was not okay. Being in a typical Asian family, my condition was blamed on work stress, being overweight, and perhaps not eating right. I tried to believe that but things did not improve. Eventually, I went to a doctor and got myself tested. ‘You have cancerous tumors in your left ovary. It’s ovarian cancer’, the doctor said. ‘But that is not possible, I replied. ‘I am very young. This cannot happen to me.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a cancer that starts in the ovaries or the fallopian tubes. This cancer is more prevalent in older women and is often found after it has spread outside of the ovaries, making treatment more difficult. Primary therapies for ovarian cancer include surgery to remove the tumor – which often involves removing all ovaries, the womb, and the fallopian tubes – and chemotherapy.
*Common symptoms to look out for. (AstraZeneca, 2020)
How to cope?
When diagnosed, you may feel like the world is falling apart. If you’re having difficulty coping, seek counselling, join a support group, or engage in artistic activities. You can also meditate, read self-help books, or talk with a therapist. Take each day as it comes. This type of cancer can hurt you physically and emotionally. You may get angry at life and feel like you take care of yourself well enough and don’t deserve it, but remember, no one deserves to get cancer but unfortunately, it happens and you have to use that energy to fight to get better.
Break the stigma and spread awareness
Gynecological cancers and their associated signs and symptoms are under-recognized, often stigmatized, and under-discussed. It can be difficult in Asian families to discuss these personal matters with family members because they are considered ‘private and gynecological’ and certain subjects are taboo.
We must encourage women to speak out about ovarian cancer – with their peers, families, and healthcare providers. You must listen to your body. Many young women dismiss the idea entirely on the grounds that they are ‘too young.’ If you believe something is wrong, persist in your quest for answers. You’re surrounded by people who want to tell you what’s best, but don’t forget about what’s best for you. Therefore, do something today that will make a difference. Be more open about this cancer, for both, ourselves and our future generations. Today, more than ever, we need to strengthen communication and education about the importance of disease awareness, early diagnosis, and access to available medical testing and effective medications. World Ovarian Cancer Day provides a perfect opportunity to redirect attention for a moment to a form of cancer where early detection and intervention can make a significant difference and save countless lives.
AstraZeneca, 2020. Raising awareness and lending a powerful voice to women with ovarian cancer to accelerate pace and progress. AstraZeneca. Available at: https://www.astrazeneca.com/what-science-can-do/labtalk-blog/oncology/raising-awareness-and-lending-a-powerful-voice-to-women-with-ovarian-cancer-to-accelerate-pace-and-progress.html.
COOC, 2021. May 8th World Ovarian Cancer Day. World Ovarian Cancer Day. Available at: https://cureourovariancancer.org/ovarian-cancer-day/#:~:text=May%208%20World%20Ovarian%20Cancer,for%20women%20facing%20ovarian%20cancer.
Cure, 2019. Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know. Cure Today. Available at: https://www.curetoday.com/view/ovarian-cancer-awareness-month-what-you-need-to-know.
Kate Rockwood | Updated on Jul. 17, Rockwood, K. & Rockwood, K., 2020. Building awareness for ovarian cancer is a necessity. The Checkup. Available at: https://www.singlecare.com/blog/ovarian-cancer-awareness-month/.
Target Ovarian Cancer, 2021. Stories. Target Ovarian Cancer. Available at: https://targetovariancancer.org.uk/stories.