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!

Partnerships and Advocacy Count

20151002_211244Advocacy. It’s thankless. It’s tiring. At times, it’s brutal. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Our work is necessary and it makes a difference. Without it, we wouldn’t be the first to go down in history as the first cure for cancer. Do you understand how important that is? Cancer cure. Every single thing we do individually takes us to a much bigger win collectively.

This weekend, I will speak at the National Race to End Women’s Cancer here in D.C., along with other women’s cancer champions, like Camille Grammer, on why our advocacy is so important. The Foundation for Women’s Cancer has been such a wonderful partner to Cervivor over the years and our work together can only continue to gain momentum as we fight to end all women’s cancers.

Here’s why we do it:

  • 98,000 American women will be diagnosed with a GYN Cancer this year, and almost 30,000 — nearly a third — will die.
  • Due to the lack of early screening tools (except for cervical cancer, for which there is HPV and PAP testing) women with these “below the belt” reproductive cancers — cervical, endometrial/uterine, ovarian, vaginal and vulvar — are often diagnosed in the late stages of disease and too many have poorer outcomes.
  • Far too few women recognize the symptoms, which rise with weight, age and other factors, including heredity.

The Foundation for Women’s Cancer urges all women to:

  • LEARN the symptoms
  • LISTEN to their bodies
  • ACT by seeking care from a gynecologic oncologist, because research shows women have better outcomes when treated by these specialists who have 7 additional years of training.

You still have time to join the race or donate to the cause. Go to endwomenscancer.org for more information.

— Tamika