OVACA – It whispers, so listen…

It was a Tuesday night in early December 09 and I found myself sitting in a brand new chair in a brand new auditorium at the brand new Ronald Reagan Medical Center at UCLA. (If I sound impressed with the shiny new digs, its because I was.) I’d been in the brand new building of the Ronald Regan Medical Center at UCLA before, several times actually and for the same reason I was there that night, despite the grand difference in circumstance.  I was waiting there that night for lecture I’d hoped would teach me a little about why I’d been in the building so many times before and if there was a way to prevent it in the first place.

For a “school” night the fancy chairs of this brand new auditorium were filling at a slow but steady pace. I guess to an outsider this wouldn’t be considered that grand of a feat since it was the smallest of the new lecture halls in the new building. But nevertheless, not bad I thought, not bad at all. I wasn’t alone in this thought either as when the introductory speaker finally took the podium, she too had noticed and proudly credited the elevated attendance to their first ever posting on craigslist. (Kudos and welcome to the glories of the inter-web.)

It was a relatively mixed crowd that night, both in gender & ethnicity.  Literally every major continent in the world was represented but with 30/70 male to female split that any college male would appreciate (any male for that matter) with the exception that I’m literally the ONLY person, male or female in the whole room under the age of 45. Given I’m just over 15 yrs shy of that cut off, I cant help but feel just a tad more conspicuous than I’d like.

The doors begin to close and all attendees, regardless of age, are eagerly awaiting the keynote speaker and with good reason. We’re all here to be introduced to unorthodox tips and information that could possibly save our life. The funny thing (and by funny I mean not-so-much) is the very public that needed to be there more than anyone in that room, wasn’t. At all. (Besides myself of course…I just one woman, not an island…barely a pebble for that matter…grain of sand on a good day even….but i digress…)
You see the keynote speaker that evening was a Oliver Dorigo, MD, PhD, UCLA Assistant Professor, gynecologic oncologist, and researcher, there to deliver compelling and hopeful incite into Ovarian Cancer, symptoms and warning signs, as well as new treatment & detection strategies. Professor Dorigo (looking & sounding quite like Alexander Godunov from Die Hard i might add) opens his lecture with the explanation of why Ovarian Cancer is most often referred to as the “Silent Killer”.
In a nutshell, when detected and treated early, Ovarian Cancer has a 95% survival rate but when its not, as is most often the case, it drops DRASTICALLY to less that 21%. This is also why despite it being #9 out of the top 10 common cancers, its the #3 killer in womens cancers. In 2009, approx. 21,550 new cases ovarian cancer were diagnosed and of that 14,600 were ovarian cancer deaths. Thats way over HALF!!!!!! But wait….there’s more! With more and more women now being properly diagnosed with endometriosis (not just “bad menstrual cramps” & a low pain tolerance), then put on hormones and/or other therapies for pain management and infertility, throw in more ovarian cancer deaths being properly diagnosed proving more of a true family history than past technology would allow, the old adage “only women 55+ are at risk” (1 in 91 to be exact) flies right out the window, being replaced with a new, more shiny and realistic risk ratio of 1 in 12 risk ratio for young women especially; slap-chop & sham-wow not included.
Oh and did I mention unlike Breast Cancer, which is so recognized, or should I say ‘commercialized’, that it you cant buy anything from a tampon to a broom to a football to a condom with out it having a pink ribbon on it, there currently is NO screening, testing or early detection protocol for Ovarian Cancer making early detection luck right up there with winning the lottery. Twice.
So….given just the small bit of information you were just practically bitch-slapped with, all of which I knew long before I walked into that shiny new building with the new lecture hall that had that new seat smell mind you, it kind-of makes you wonder. Why in the HELL wouldn’t more young women be at this lecture? Especially since it was so easily accessible to them…Hello? ON a college campus, FREE, advertised thoroughly and months in advance(emails, flyers, craigslist even!) AND they even had yummy refreshments and edibles (gratis as well) to boot!
I’d like to think (hope) that the answer is NOT because Ovarian Cancer is “ewww-eee” and “like, so not my problem, cause im like veggie eater & check my boobs” or that people just happened to up their spam folders that month but more like “WE” (speaking AS an island now)  just truly have no freaking clue about just how silent this killer is and more over how at risk we really are.
Which is the whole reason why I posted this little diddy, ladies & gents. We need more awareness so that some day soon the pink ribbons that blanket america will be commercially rivaled by teal ones and that Breast Cancer can share the spotlight with its just as deadly sister, Ovarian Cancer.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and aside from its “Silent Killer” moniker, it’s slogan “It Whispers….so Listen” can be heard ’round the world. As a survivor myself and ribbon wearer in memory of my friends & family that were not so fortunate, please take a moment to mark your calender, note the ribbon color, learn the warning signs and stay ‘abreast’ (camon, i HAD to) of the latest screening updates for either yourself, your family, your friends or even just some random woman you want to pay-it-forward to.  The life you save may be your own…..(yes, i know…but im sure Mr. O’Conner wouldnt mind if I ‘borrowed’ that one since I’m giving him credit for it)
Helpful places to start:
www.ovariancancerawareness.org (This one kinda speaks for itself)
ovariancancer.com (The Gilda Radner Family Registry for Ovarian Cancer)
www.ovariancancer.org (Ovarian Cancer National Alliance)
www.ovarian.org (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition)
Ovarian Cancer Awareness Cause on FACEBOOK! (Join the group & support the cause!)
And just one of several amazing stories of young women, like me, who stepped up to the OvaCa Plate & fought back: www.ovarian.org/inspirational_stories_1.php

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