Cervivor, My Teal Sisters

Imagine you are in the best shape of your life – all your hard work in all aspects of your life are paying off. You are living your best life. This was me on New Year’s Day 2017. Little did I know that all that work would make me stronger to fight what was soon to come.
January 2017 – I have an abnormal mammogram which turns into a biopsy that turns into a Stage 0 breast cancer diagnosis. Surgery occurs in April with radiation therapy until the beginning of June. I get through that with no issues and ready to get back to my “normal life”. With 3 radiation treatments left I was back to running. On a short run, I thought I was having UTI symptoms and went to an urgent care which lead to an ER visit that led to an advanced stage ovarian cancer diagnosis. You have got to be kidding. Lots of tests and appointments later – surgery and front line chemotherapy for 6 cycles to hopefully end in December. 

All my friends are very supportive and amazing but they none have gone through anything like this. I am grateful for them every day. My active running (race) plans are totally sidelined including the New York City Marathon the 1st weekend in November. During this time I am a sponge trying to soak in all the information I can about ovarian cancer, treatment options, and trying to find a way to get back to my “normal life”. Instead of the NYC Marathon, I find the Gynecologic Cancer Survivor Course with The Foundation for Women’s Cancer that includes a 5k in DC that same weekend.  A perfect distraction and an opportunity to learn more!

I arrive early to the seminar to pick out the best seat and maybe meet a few people. The people who sit at my table are lovely but serious and I don’t have a lot in common with them except for cancer. Then this high energy group of ladies walk into the room and sat down at the table next to me. My table didn’t have any empty seats and someone at the table had a friend still coming…perfect opportunity for me to change seats! I politely asked if I could join the ladies at the next table. They “warned” me that they were a rowdy bunch. (My thoughts were, PERFECT!) After introductions they treated me like one of the gang and I am sure that they were glad to have someone new with whom they could tell all their great stories. I learned so much not only from the sessions but from each of them and about their journeys. All of them are cervical cancer survivors from Cervivor!  While they have all have/had setbacks, they are all positive and always looking for the future.

During this weekend, I had an unexplained issue with both of my Achilles tendons – I could barely walk at one point. (It was later determined I was having an extreme reaction to an antibiotic.) I was now going to miss the 5K which was very disappointing. My new friends kept my spirits up the entire time. We hung out and walked together at the 1 mile event. We had a great time and the weekend was a success. Good information and now some new friends who understand and share my attitude about living with cancer.We have kept in touch since through Facebook and even some live chats. I have shared some of my obstacles with them even before sharing them with my inner circle of close friends. They understand.

Me in the teal hat! Photo courtesy of the Foundation for Women’s Cancer.

I was entered again into the New York City Marathon for 2018. With my recurrence and chemo treatments, my training has been awful and I decided to not run the marathon again. While disappointed, it opened my schedule for that weekend. I am now looking forward to attending the 2018 Race to End Women’s Cancer and Gynecologic Cancer Education Course in DC. I can’t wait to learn new information, run a 5k, and hang out with “old friends.”

Maureen Bowen, a Raleigh NC resident, is a Sales Product Specialist at Net Health and has worked in the healthcare IT field for over 20 years. When she is not working, you are likely to find her on a race course somewhere across the country. She has completed over 160 half marathons (all 50 states twice), 27 marathons, and 8 ultra marathons (races ranging from 31-100 miles). If you see her on a race course near you, please make sure to say hello!

Preparing for Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

In 1999 the Foundation for Women’s Cancer established September as Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, or GCAM. Since then, the month of September has been a time to bring awareness to all gynecologic cancers-cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar.  In 2018, it was estimated that 110,070 women would be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer and some 32,120 will die from the disease. Every woman is at risk for a “below the belt” cancer. Reading the statistics can feel overwhelming, but we believe that education and awareness is the most powerful tool we have, in fighting this important battle in women’s health.

Understanding GYN Cancers

As women, we must understand our bodies and the warning signs for GYN cancers. Sometimes there can be little to no sign at all, while other women may experience abnormalities that could be indicators of a serious health issue. The table below is a helpful tool to use when understanding GYN cancers.

At Cervivor we always say, prevention is better than treatment. For best outcomes, make sure you’re keeping your annual Well-Woman visit, cervical screenings, obtaining the HPV vaccination if appropriate, and communicating any changes with your physician. Keep in mind, there is no screening for uterine or ovarian cancers. Maintaining an open dialogue with your provider is imperative.

What can you do?

GCAM is a time for our community and advocates to bring awareness to GYN cancers. We encourage you to participate in GCAM by:

Sharing Cervivor content during GCAM. We will have plenty of graphics, articles, and other resources to share with your social media network, across all platforms. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Share you Cervivor Story. Have you shared your story with us on Cervivor.org? Sharing your story on our site is a powerful tool for getting your story out there. Our template guides you with questions, to help you share your cervical cancer story in a way that is personal to you. You can share as little or as much as you like. Once you have submitted your story and it is published, you will be able to share the link with others.

Contact local media to share your Cervivor story. Many times, local news stations, newspapers, and neighborhood publications are looking for content. Reach out to them and share your story. If your story is on Cervivor.org, share the link with them when you reach out.

Host a Cervivor Meet-Up. Meet-Ups are local gatherings of Cervivors, networking and sharing in a social environment. You can hold a Cervivor Meet-Up in a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, or any where you feel is a welcoming and relaxed place for Cervivors to talk and share. If you’re interested in hosting a Cervivor Meet-Up in your area, contact holly@cervivor.org.

Chicago area Cervivor Meet-Up

We look forward to a successful GCAM and can’t wait to see how our Cervivor Community comes together to bring awareness to cervical and other gynecologic cancers! We are Cervivor!

Statistics: http://www.foundationforwomenscancer.org/about-gynecologic-cancers/