Three years ago Cathy Powell went into remission from ovarian cancer, and since then her family each year has held a benefit sale at one of downtown Millburn's gift stores.
This weekend is the third annual Holiday Party to benefit the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition at Shala. Customers of the Millburn Avenue store can enter to win raffle prizes donated by vendors and enjoy food and drink while they shop.
"We've been busy," said Vicky Powell, co-owner along with her mother Shala Powell. "It means so much to us. We do this and we help put the teal ribbons around town to raise awareness of ovarian cancer." Three years ago Shala's youngest daughter, Cathy Powell, was declared in remission from ovarian cancer.
"I jumped in the pool, and couldn't breathe; the tumor shifted," said Cathy Powell, discussing how her cancer was discovered. "I was lucky my cancer was at the 1A stage. But I had all the symptoms. I just chalked it up to other things going on in my life."
Ovarian cancer can be difficult to diagnose. "There are no good tests for ovarian cancer, and most women are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome," said Lynn M.K. Franklin, president of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and an ovarian cancer survior. "Breast cancer affects one in eight women, and ovarian cancer affects one in 70 so it's considered rare and doctors don't look for it."
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
- Pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating, and/or feeling of fullness
- Ongoing unusual fatigue
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
- Pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort
- Frequency and/or urgency of urination in the absence of infection
- Unexplained changes in bowel habits
"We tell women that if they are experiencing these symptoms for more than two weeks or if your doctor prescribes medicine for IBS and after two weeks there is no improvement, they should see their gynocologist to rule out ovarian cancer," said Franklin.
"It's also important for women to understand that a pap smear does not test for ovarian cancer; it's vital they understand that," said Lynn Stahl, vice president of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the NOCC.
"I had unusual symptoms," said Franklin. "I was having unexplained pressure after urination. My doctor told me it was nothing, but it wasn't normal for my body. I insisted and finally a gasteroenterologist saw a tumor on a cat scan. I also had an early stage, but if I had just assumed my original doctor was right I could be dead. This is a fast growing cancer, which makes it more deadly."
"My doctor would never have thought to look for ovarian cancer because I was only 34 when I was diagnosed and they tend to think of it as an older woman's disease, " Powell said "I am so glad I jumped in the pool that day."