I began having symptoms that something wasn’t quite right in my abdomen years ago. I went to my doctor expressing symptoms of severe digestive issues and tiredness. I described symptoms of abdominal discomfort, odd weight gain, and just a general sense that something was wrong with me. I was given excuses such as, “You’re getting older. This is what happens as women enter perimenopause.”
One time I had such severe menstrual cramps that I had to call someone to pick up and take me home. “Wow… Perimenopause sucks!” I thought.
Fast forward to the winter of 2019. I had been having odd symptoms that made me wonder if I could have experienced a bladder or urinary tract infection. I was waking up at least four times a night to urinate. I could only walk my dogs where I knew I had quick, easy access to a public restroom. In addition to the frequent severe need to urinate, diarrhea was becoming a constant even though I was eating the most basic foods. There was an odd ache in my lower left abdomen that I had for years, but no doctor thought it was anything to be concerned with. In fact, I had scheduled my annual OBGYN visit for December of 2019 and got another “all clear.”
In late January of 2020, I awoke in the middle of the night with severe abdominal pain. I sat on the floor next to my bed…assessing. Left or right side? Other symptoms? Frequency?
But the pain subsided, so I carried on as though everything was normal despite feeling VERY sick. A few weeks later, I was scooping up rocks in a shovel when I felt “something” in my abdomen that shook me. “This is NOT normal.” I drove myself to urgent care, and it was there that a very large mass was found in what “used to be” my left ovary.
“It doesn’t look like cancer, but we won’t know for sure until surgery.” Two doctors said this to me. I thought, “Great! Let’s just get this thing removed, and I’ll get on with my life!” But when I woke up from surgery in April of 2020, I saw that the incision was up past my belly button. Debulking….” Oh sh*t…” My surgeon came in soon after. “Janice, I’m so sorry I have to tell you this through a mask and shield, but we did find cancer. The mass broke open upon removal…(I stopped hearing.) You’ll need chemo…(I stopped hearing again).
I was LIVID. Not at my doctor, of course. Not at the scar. Not at the diagnosis. I was LIVID because NOT ONE DOCTOR EVER SPOKE WITH ME ABOUT THE SIGNS, SYMPTOMS, AND RISKS ASSOCIATE WITH OVARIAN CANCER IN THE 50 YEARS I HAD BEEN ALIVE. Two weeks after surgery, I contacted the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and said, “PLEASE put me to work. I volunteer because NO ONE born with ovaries should EVER be denied education about this disease!!”
Their response was adorable.
“Thank you, Janice, but…we feel that you should contact us when chemo is done.” I had NO idea what was coming. I simply wanted to go to war with the lack of vital information.
Almost one year after surgery & diagnosis, I am on FIRE to reach as many persons born with ovaries as possible. With the support and blessing of the NOCC, I am reaching out to the people of my state, New Mexico. I have joined the New Mexico Cancer Council as well. I reach out to my community in any way possible. For example, I will be on an A.M. radio station speaking about ovarian cancer to anyone who will listen.
While I have the health to do so, I will fight the lack of information and support with every ounce of my energy.
The legacy I will leave behind will be the change that needs to occur regarding the silence we are treated with when it comes to ovarian cancer.
Janice Skidmore is the owner and CEO of Write Mind Creative, a company she created and developed to provide affordable, customized, and quality branding and/or brand development as well as social media management for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small businesses. She is Marine Corps Veteran, German Shepard fanatic, dancing freak, small business owner, solopreneur, and NOCC Volunteer.
Janice is on a mission to change the way ovarian cancer is sadly not discussed with OBGYN patients until after it is discovered. Therefore, she has started a petition to bring about a much-needed change. If so inclined, you can sign her petition here.