Sarah Sadtler Feather died last week. Sarah's blog The Carcinista was about her experience with ovarian cancer.
I didn't know her and had not been a reader for long. I think somebody commented on this blog, and I went to that blog, and I saw a link there that led me to The Carcinista. I'm an ovarian cancer survivor, so I hopped over there to see what she was all about.
It's just heartbreaking. I can't get her off of my mind. Sarah was a talented and entertaining writer who told it straight up. My favorite line was something she wrote after she decided to stop treatment. Her body was ravaged, and she was tired and done.
"So I’ll fight while the fighting is good. And then I’m going to have a chocolate milkshake and a really killer nap."
Sarah was also young, in her 30s, with a young family. In some ways, that makes it seem even more unfair, but I try not to differentiate between those who die young and those who die with more miles on the odometer. I mean, would you console a grieving family member with these words, "Well, she was 60 ..."
That has been my ax to grind with ovarian cancer all along. People rally behind breast cancer. It's young, it's hip, it's perky. Ovarian cancer is an old woman's disease. It's like, sorry, but you were washed up anyway. Only when it strikes the young does anybody start to care. But if that's what it takes, I'll take it! Sarah and other young ovarian cancer survivors have made a difference, and I'm grateful.
The disease used to be practically unmentionable. I don't know if it's because it seems so intimate and female (the word ovaries can clear a room) or if it's fear the disease is spread by word of mouth. Ovarian cancer is not as common as breast cancer, but it is far more lethal. Most people consider it a death sentence. The following celebrities died of ovarian cancer:
- Gilda Radner
- Madeline Kahn
- Jessica Tandy
- Loretta Young
- Shari Lewis
- Sandy Dennis
- Coretta Scott King
- Laura Nyro
- Liz Tilberis
Most of our spokewomen are dead, but never forget there are long-term survivors! Among the celebrity survivors is Kathy Bates, who has done her part to heighten awareness. I believe Kathy was diagnosed at Stage 1, which is the earliest stage and statistically the most survivable. The Carcinista was Stage 3C, which is the same diagnosis I had 12 years ago. The Carcinista lived about five years with the disease. My death sentence was a false alarm.
I still get scared. I still fear its return. But whether it's gone for good or comes back to bite me is out of my control, so I practice letting go of the fear. Anybody can do this. Cancer experience not required. Anybody can practice letting go of the fear that keeps them from becoming all they were intended to be. Just listen to that reasoned inner voice (not the crazy one) that says try this or do that. What's the worst thing that can happen?
You can even mix plaids and stripes if you want to!