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Abbreviations & Acronyms
dx diagnose, diagnosis
FSH follicle-stimulating hormone
IBS irritable bowel syndrome
IVP intravenous pyelogram — study to look at the kidneys and ureters
NED no evidence of disease
s/s signs & symptoms
SLS second-look surgery
TAH / BSO total abdominal hysterectomy / bilateral salpingectomy and oophorectomy — removal of, respectively: uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries
tx treat, treatment
US ultrasound
WAR whole abdominal radiation
   
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Judy Lidgate

Submitted on 12/08/2003
Photo of Judy Lidgate My girlfriend Judy passed away from ovarian cancer August 17th, 2003 after putting up a tremendous battle. Judy was a very inspiring woman and she meant a lot to so many people. I would like to share this glimpse into her life with others.

It is difficult to find words that even remotely describe the essence of my girlfriend Judy. Simply put, Judy was a “Classy Broad”. Judy meant so much to so many people. She was such an upbeat positive person! Judy inspired many people over the course of her lifetime. Family and friends were top priority to Judy. Surrounded by her "little" farm animals, her beloved dogs and cats, Judy created a warm and inviting home where everyone was welcome. Her two daughters Nikki and Shelby were her pride and joy. Her husband Don was the love of her life, her true soul mate. She loved her mother Molly. Judy’s life was made complete when her daughter Shelby gave birth to her grandson Austin. To Austin, Judy was simply “Mugas”. Mugas adored her little man. Judy was blessed with much insight into life. Honesty, fairness, trust, understanding and acceptance of others were values that were very dear to Judy. Judy cared very much for her friends. She was wise, caring, compassionate and very empathetic to the needs of others. Judy knew intuitively when something was not quite right, she reached out unselfishly, and knowingly to help in any way she could with out having to be asked. Everyone who knew her enjoyed her great sense of humour and infectious smile. The room lit up when Judy walked in. Judy loved life. Judy may not be with us physically anymore, but her spirit will live on forever. She will be forever cherished and will live on eternally in the hearts of the many people who knew and loved her. Judy, thank you for sharing your life with us. We all miss you.

P.S. - My girlfriend, Judy died of Ovarian Cancer on August 17th., 2003. Before Judy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we both knew very little about ovarian cancer and gave it no thought. The purpose of this letter is to bring awareness of ovarian cancer to as many women as possible.

In the previous months before Judy was diagnosed with cancer, she did not feel quite right. Judy was always an energetic person, but she started to complain about feeling tired and having a lack of energy. She was concerned and frustrated. Judy noticed changes in her bowel habits, her back that was always a problem, seemed to be bothering her even more; she was having headaches and sleep problems. She had some “spotting” despite being post-menopausal. Something was not right and Judy knew it. She went to her family doctor more than once seeking help and answers. It was suggested that she was suffering from depression. Judy definitely was not.

Ovarian Cancer can strike at any age, but most cases affect women between the ages of 50 and 75 years. The average age when ovarian cancer is detected in women is 56.3 years. Unfortunately, 75% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed at advanced stages where survival rate is low. This year it is estimated that in Canada, 2,600 women -- one in 70 – will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 1,500 women will die from this cancer in 2003. Ovarian cancer has the highest mortality rate of all women's cancers.

Some risk factors are familial link for ovarian cancer in 10% of cases, never being pregnant, family history of breast, endometrial or colorectal cancer, history of infertility and early menstruation and late menopause.

There is no single early detection test available such as the mammography in breast cancer or the colonoscopy in colorectal cancer. The Pap test is not a test for ovarian cancer. Knowledge is the most important and the best weapon in the fight against this disease. Awareness of ovarian cancer signs and symptoms is most important.

Signs and symptoms are:

  • Generalized discomfort in the abdomen, bloating, pelvic pain.
  • Persistent but vague stomach upset – gas, feeling of nausea, indigestion.
  • Non-specific bodily discomfort that persists or a feeling of uneasiness that you cannot explain.
  • A feeling of early satiety -- feeling too full for no valid reason.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits … feeling constipated or needing to urinate frequently in the absence of an infection.
  • An unexplained weight gain. “Swelling in the abdomen with no pain” or unexplained weight loss.
  • Pain during intercourse.
  • Fatigue unrelieved by bed rest.
  • Back ache.
  • Sometimes unusual bleeding from the vagina.
It is important that women be made aware of the above symptoms and signs.

In a survey done in 1999, it was found that less then 1 out of 10 women surveyed had no symptoms before diagnosis. In other words, more than 9 out of 10 women had one or more symptoms before the cancer was detected.

If you have any of these symptoms and they persist for longer than two to three weeks, make an appointment to see your family doctor immediately. It is important though to remember that these symptoms and signs are not unique to ovarian cancer. If after seeing your Doctor, you still have concerns, go see him or her again to discuss these concerns, and after that if you are still having questions, doubts or concerns seek another opinion from another doctor or insist on a referral to a gynecologist. Be persistent!!

My girlfriend and I had many intimate talks while she was fighting to live. The one talk that stands out the most is when she said to me, “ Girlfriend, Get to know your body. Be aware of changes, follow your instincts and if something does not feel quite right, do not hesitate to go see your doctor. Ask questions, demand tests. Be a “thorn” in your Doctor’s side."

ALL WOMEN SHOULD HAVE A YEARLY RECTO-VAGINAL PELVIC EXAMINATION.

For those women who are at high risk of developing ovarian cancer, a CA125 blood test with a transvaginal ultrasound may be used as a screening tool.

If even one woman’s life is saved because of this letter than Judy’s fight against ovarian cancer will not have been in vain.

Exactly what is a Recto-vaginal pelvic examination?
ANSWER: In a full recto-pelvic examination, the doctor feels the abdomen for hardiness or lumps and for any signs of enlarged ovaries, uterus, bowel or appendix. He or she will ask you if you feel any tenderness. It should NOT hurt when your doctor is conducting this examination. It may feel a little uncomfortable but you should not feel pain.

The doctor will exam the external surface of the vagina feeling for lumps or sores.

Next, a speculum, a device that holds the walls of the vagina open, will be inserted. The doctor will exam the vaginal walls, and your cervix and does a Pap smear.

This is followed by a manual examination. The doctor inserts two gloved lubricated fingers into your vagina while pressing gently on your abdomen. This is how she or he checks out the surface of your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Finally, the doctor performs a rectal examination. If your doctor does not make this exam a regular practice, ask about it. This is a very important part of your examination. The step, in which one finger is in the vagina and the other is in the rectum, helps detect rectal lesions and growths (an early sign of colon cancer) and helps point out endometriosis, ovarian cysts/tumours, and the alignment of the uterus and other pelvic organs.

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