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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 Morris

Submitted on 08/28/2003
Photo of Judy Morris Judy passed away in May of 2003.

For at least 14 months I had been trying to tell my internist and ob-gyn something was wrong. I had a tender area on my right side that I would point to and say,"This is where it REALLY hurts". They would press on it and I'd say,"YES, that's It!" and each would always say he couldn't feel anything there. Even when I had the vaginal-rectal exam in December before my surgery in September, the ob-gyn said it felt tight in there, he still didn't seem concerned. I let that slide because he had me on Metamucil ( for the Indigestion!) and since I had to go to the bathroom abut 4 times when I got home, I thought that might account for the tightness. Of course, at the time, I knew nothing about ovarian symptoms. What really made me push to get to the bottom of it in early September -- to see if there truly WAS something going on -- were the following things:

      1) The tender area on the right was no longer by itself; the left side had joined it. This tenderness did not hurt unless I pressed on it, or rolled over during the night. Once I became aware of them I would check during the day to see if they were still tender to the touch and they were. When I first noticed the right one, I thought it had something to do with menopause since I was 49. So I kept feeling to see if it had changed.(In June I had sort of blacked out, so I had the test (FSH?)to see if I was menopausal. That showed I was not.

      2) In late April of that year, I was in the Pegasus Parade during Derby Week as part of the 15th District PTA's entry celebrating PTA's 100th birthday. We were to wear matching T-shirts and khaki pants. Since I had no khaki pants, I had to buy a pair. I was able to find a nice pair that fit perfectly in every way and even had a little extra room at the waistline, in case I needed it later ( I needed it later, but it wasn't nearly ENOUGH!!) They were size 10. By the end of August, when I tried to include these pants for a trip, they lacked at least 4" coming together at the waistline. I knew my waistline was growing over the summer, but these pants gave me a specific marker. Had I been heavier at the beginning, I might never have noticed this difference. When people would ask me to meet them for lunch during the summer, I'd say, "I probably shouldn't go; I feel I'm getting so fat." (Then I'd still go, but feel a little guilty!) I was usually telling this to my walking partner--we'd meet at 5:30 A.M. for a 3-mile walk. Sometimes I'd meet another friend for a 2-mile walk in the evenings. When I told my internist that I was walking 3-5 miles a day and still gaining, he was quick to tell me how my metabolism could change and he whipped out the sheet that we've all seen telling how much time one must spend on different activities to lose one pound. I told him I understood all that, but still felt something was wrong, because I weighed more than I did when I had my 11-pound baby. His response--"and you're not even going to have anything to show for it this time." I'm proud of myself for not backing down, despite these and other sarcastic, condescending comments. I said I still felt something was wrong. He said "well, if there is something wrong in the area you're indicating, it has to be the bladder, colon or ovaries--that's all that's there. "

Since he had told me over a year before to take Metamucil, and had put me on Pep-cid in February, I was sure it was my colon. I started to ask him about the different colon tests. That's when he got downright hateful. I felt ill-prepared to get into an argument with him about those tests, since I knew so very little, so we moved the discussion to the ovaries. My thinking was--I'll eliminate the ovaries (and probably bladder) as possibilities, learn about the colon tests, then throw my energies into getting that properly diagnosed. So we decided I'd go to my ob-gyn and see if there was a problem. Since it was about 5:00, I knew I'd get the answering service if I went home to call, so I went straight there. (Before I left the internist's office, he wrote down more directions for taking Pep-cid.) When I told the person behind the ob-gyn's desk that my internist and I thought I should be checked, she insisted it was not time for another check-up--I was checked in December and this was only September. I kept saying that I really felt I needed to be checked. The person who did ultrasounds one day a week (Wednesdays)happened to be there. Although I had never had an ultrasound, I had seen her before and she remembered me. She came over and I explained the situation to her. She said maybe we could do an ultrasound. I said,"Good, can we do it this Wednesday?" (This was late Monday, Sept 8). "Oh, no, we're full--we couldn't possibly do it then." I knew I needed to get that off my mind so I could focus on my colon, so I just keep asking nicely if I could come any time after 12:00 on Wed., no matter how late. Finally she said "well, come on in at 3:45 this Wednesday." I felt a little guilty then and said "are you sure? I know I've kind of insisted and I don't want to crowd your schedule too much ." She said "No, come on in then because we're booked till October 29." On Wed. Sept 10, when she did the US, she had trouble inserting the probe.

To sum it up, they sent me over the next night for a CT scan, with the words "suspected 11 cm. mass" written on the sheet. On Sept. 22,I had surgery and was later told I was Stage llB. In the op report, the surgeon suspected it might be Stage lll, but tests showed it was only in the two ovaries. They had also removed the omentum as well as some lymph nodes. I realize how fortunate I am and want to do everything I can to help educate others. A year after my surgery, I moved out of a 31-year marriage. For one thing, my husband was extremely critical of any volunteer work I did and I knew I needed to work on OC awareness. In general it was just a very negative atmosphere, not helped by the fact that he retired in 1991 at the age of 51. Although the last child had left home in 1996, I waited until they were all finished with their education and then I moved. They are now in Santa Barbara, Manhattan, and Thailand (Peace Corps).

For the most part, I feel great. I get blue sometimes and I miss my children. But I know they're doing what they need to do and so am I. I stay really busy. Another OC survivor and I started an ovarian and other gyn cancer group in March, Kentucky Silent No More. It is advocacy as well as support. I am also on the board of a general cancer support group, Friends for Hope.

Besides the tenderness in the area of both ovaries, the waistline increase and the indigestion, I think I had many other warning signs. I had bloating, distention, pain during intercourse, frequent urination, just about everything except bleeding, but never was an US mentioned or any special concern shown on the part of my doctors. Years before, I had an abnormal Pap and was also diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. (After the surgery, when I questioned the doctors on why they hadn't been able to feel especially the larger tumor, they told me it was "suppressed.")

I'd like to add in closing--LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! I think that's the most important advice we can pass on to others. Also, remember it IS YOUR body and that the doctor is working for you. Don't hesitate to question or even change doctors. Most women who have heard my story say that their mothers would NEVER have pursued it as I did. If you can't push for yourself, think of your daughter or granddaughter and do it for them!


Ovarian Awareness of Kentucky (O.A.K.)
A support group for ovarian and other gynecologic cancers, meets at 6-7pm on the 4th Monday of each month
Norton Suburban Hospital, Suite 102
Louisville, KY

For more information contact: (877) 899-4504


Friends for Hope
a non-profit, non-sectarian cancer support group
meets 7-8:30 on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month
in Louisville, Kentucky

For more information contact: Pam Temple Jennings (502) 852-6318

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