Raising awareness: Locals encourage community to learn symptoms, get checked
Published 7:32 pm Friday, September 20, 2019
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and while the disease is one of the less spoken on forms of cancer, it can be dangerous for those facing it, especially when it is discovered late.
Two locals, Sylvia Evans and Kathy Dremann, have been facing the disease for years, and they say that they now encourage friends and family to get tested if they see any early symptoms of the disease.
“I was diagnosed in November 2013, and I had been going to several different doctors trying to figure out what was going on,” Evans said. “They never could pinpoint it. Looking back, I had several of the symptoms that I did not know were ovarian cancer symptoms because no one ever talks about ovarian cancer.”
Following an ultrasound, doctors discovered malignant fluid known as ascites, which is usually associated with liver disease, but it wasn’t until after a rushed trip to the emergency room that Evans learned the real culprit behind her symptoms.
“The ER doctor came out after we’d been there for hours and said, ‘you have ovarian cancer, and it’s not good,’ turned around and walked out,” Evans said. “My husband and I were just like, what do you do? So, they admitted me, and the next morning, Dr. [Lawrence] Gynther came to see me… and he said, ‘this is what we are going to do. We are going to get you scheduled to have surgery, then you’ll start chemo.’”
Evans said she finished chemo in April 2014, but there was a reoccurrence in February 2015. After that, she remained in stable condition until May 2019. She plans to have a CAT scan in October to determine where she now stands.
Dremann first learned that she had ovarian cancer in 2007, and she said that by the time she was diagnosed, she was so bloated that she looked pregnant.
“I was stage three when I was diagnosed in ’07,” Dremann said. “My gynecologist saw a tumor by doing an exam, which is very rare. Most of the time you have to be tested specifically for ovarian cancer, and women don’t know that. Most women think that with a gynecological exam, it is going to show up. That is normally not the case.”
After six months, Dremann’s doctors were able to help her get to inactive status using surgery, chemo, medication and prayer. The cancer made reappearances in 2012 and 2018, and she is now on medication to treat stage four ovarian cancer.
Evans and Dremann said that it is important for women to know the symptoms and request testing if they suspect that they could have ovarian cancer. Some of the most common symptoms are persistent bloating, feeling full despite eating less, abdominal or back pain and trouble with bladder or bowels.
“If my OB/Gyn had ever said anything to me about ovarian cancer and the symptoms, I would have known that my lower back pain, my bloating, my constipation — all of those were signs, but I had no clue because when you are a woman, you go through those signs with menopause,” Evans said. “I’m just trying to get awareness for ovarian cancer out there.”
Evans and Dremann said that their friends and families have been supportive. Dremann said she had a head shaving party with her family before chemo, and Evans said her exercise group wears teal on Tuesdays to raise awareness for ovarian cancer.
“I wear teal every day,” Evans said. “My exercise group wears teal every Tuesdays. It is called Teal Tuesdays, and they have fun.”
Evans said that she has also had at least one friend go to the doctor to get tested as well, and they both encourage everyone to get tested, with more than just a pap smear.
“We feel like it is very, very important to try to get more awareness for ovarian cancer because it is called the silent killer because most women are stage three before they are diagnosed,” Dremann said. “It is so much like menstrual issues [as far as] symptoms.”
To learn more about ovarian cancer, visit Cancer.org/cancer/ovarian-cancer.html.