A bit of a change of theme in this post. No time travel, but in a very real way this post does concern time - the time we have available to us.
A few weeks ago an old and dear friend passed away after a year and a half long battle with cancer. It was a long and a difficult fight that she waged with her disease, and it took a terrible toll on her even before it finally killed her.
But this post isn't about the battle. And it isn't even about Helen. I could write a book about her and still never find the right words to praise her for the intelligent, warm and witty woman that she was. It isn't even about the prevention of cancer and the terrible waste of lives caused by smoking and bad diet etc. Helen's cancer wasn't one of those cancers associated with lifestyle choices. This is purely about taking care of yourself medically and seeing the doctor when you're ill.
Helen had ovarian cancer. Its a type of cancer that's often referred to as a silent killer - silent because you don't know that you have it until it's advanced. It is symptomless, or so they say. In fact the first symptom my friend took seriously enough to visit the doctor for, was shortness of breath. This was caused by a secondary tumour growing so large that it was actually pressing on her lung. By then of course, it was too late.
But there were other symptoms. Ovarian cancer isn't truly silent. It's just that its early symptoms are vague and often mistaken for other things. Things that people often don't feel the need to visit the doctor for.
Symptoms, and this is taken directly from the American Cancer Society website, are seen in the early stages of the disease, even before the cancer has spread. They include:
Pelvic and abdominal pain,
Trouble eating or feeling full quickly,
Urinary symptoms such as urgency or needing to go often.
And the advice that they give is that when the occurance of these symptoms is unusual, when they are present almost daily, and when they last more than a couple of weeks, that should be a warning sign to women to visit their doctor and get checked out.
It's highly likely that these symptoms will be due to other more minor ailments, but for those unfortunate few who do have early stage ovarian cancer, an early diagnosis is everything. The sooner you catch it, the better the odds of beating it.
So that's my plea on behalf of my friend. Don't ignore minor symptoms. Don't simply assume they're signs of a tummy bug or what have you. If they're unusual for you, if they aren't going away, if they're happening daily, please go and see your doctor.
Remember the old mantra - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.