“But those who Hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
- Isaiah 40:31

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Reader Spreads Message of HOPE About Cancer

By Melba Lovelace

DEAR MELBA: So many women read your articles, I thought it would be a wonderful place to tell people about ovarian cancer. We here at Helping Ovarian cancer Patients Everywhere in Oklahoma (HOPE) are a support group for anyone who has ovarian or other gynecological-related cancers. It's our goal to get the word out to women everywhere. Many people have the misconception that ovarian cancer is only prevalent among older women. This is not true. It occurs in one out of 55 women and can happen to women of any age.

Early diagnosis is the answer. A friend told me she believed the disease could exist as long as 10 years before being diagnosed. Early diagnosis can improve a woman's chance of survival to 90 percent, and there are treatments being discovered as I write this.

Most women are diagnosed in the latter stages, and that was the case with me. That's why it's so important to get the message out.

The most important information for women is they must see a gynecologic oncologist. These are specialists who treat women's cancers of the reproductive tract. They are five times more likely to reduce tumors to less than 2 cm, which greatly increases a woman's chances of a better prognosis. So, whether your gynecologist or medical doctor recommends it, you must see a gynecologic oncologist.

The University of Oklahoma Medical Center has five of the nation's top gynecologic oncologists at the OU Physicians Building.

We're so thankful for all the publicity we've had, and we're working with women across the country to persuade the U.S. Postal Service to issue an ovarian cancer awareness stamp. Anything you can do to help us spread information, Melba, will be appreciated and might save someone's life.

Even with the available tests, there is a chance this disease can be missed. The CA125 test checks for cancer via the blood. If the test shows anything under 35 count, it is considered OK. But some, such as me, have never measured over 35 and still have ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer has been called the silent disease. But it really isn't silent. Pay attention, and you'll find that it whispers and sometimes screams.

I began having gallbladder symptoms. I also occasionally had slight pain in my lower abdomen. When the lower pelvic pain became more severe and more frequent, I convinced myself it was either scar tissue from a hysterectomy (yes, you can have cancer if you've had a hysterectomy) or kidney stones.

Besides the pain, I was so bloated that I looked like I was pregnant. I never knew when diarrhea was going to strike.

We want to caution women and their doctors to be aware that these and the following symptoms could be ovarian cancer -- nausea, indigestion, constipation, menstrual disorders, pain during intercourse, fatigue and backaches.

Of course, these symptoms can be signs of other problems. And that's one reason ovarian cancer is so difficult to diagnose. But if you have any of these symptoms, ask your doctor if he would recommend a combination of pelvic- rectal examination, a CA125 blood test and a transvaginal sonogram.

If I could go back to the time that my body began to try and tell me that something was wrong, I would listen more closely. I would hound my doctor until he or she listened, or I would look for one who would.

I've had 38 chemotherapy treatments. I've had several colonoscopies, and I have a lifetime membership at the blood lab.

My doctor tells me to ignore foul- weather reports about how long I may live, because they don't take into account my faith in God, my otherwise good health and the super support I have from family and friends. And he's right. I don't know what we would have done without God in our lives.

I hope people will visit our Web site at www.hope.ouhsc.edu or call us at our Oklahoma City office, 271-8663, Ext. 48165, or (580) 863-2249.

We all have the same thoughts when we discover we have ovarian cancer. We're frightened, confused and we don't want to die. HOPE is a group of women who share one thing in common: ovarian cancer. We're here to tell you through our experiences that while you may not be able to see it early on, have hope that you can get through this. There will be many wonderful blessings and positive changes to occur through your journey, and life will go on. However, it will never be the same.

Sometimes, our programs serve as a place to share fellowship and communicate with each other. We have a luncheon each month just to be together and show love to one another. And we have a monthly meeting where guest speakers talk about things that matter to folks in our circumstance.

We walk together through our emotions, and we find the bond of friendship here to be the strongest we've experienced. Thank you so much, Melba, for letting us get our message of HOPE out to someone who might not have heard it.

Carol Selman, Newalla

Melba can also be reached by e-mail at mlovelace@oklahoman.com

1 July 2002