Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women ages 35 to 74 and many women who are diagnosed are already in stage three and four of the disease.
Two women in Acadiana who have been through the fight with ovarian cancer and survived are now making it their mission to educate others about this deadly disease.
Cherri Phillips considers herself one of the lucky ones.
“I noticed bleeding. I knew it wasn’t good because I was two years post-menopause,” says Phillips. “That brought me to an appointment with my GYN for a pap smear and ultrasound. They found a polyp on my uterus and fluid along the fallopian tube.”
But what was first thought to be fluid turned out instead to be a tumor. Cherri had stage one ovarian cancer.
She immediately started treatment to combat the disease, and Cherri says that she believes God was the one who got her through it.
“He said, ‘ I have heard your prayers and seen your tears and I will heal you,’ and he did.”
Through her battle, Cherri met Terri Gerace, another ovarian cancer survivor and now advocate who is pushing for more information, screenings, and funding for the rarely talked about the disease.
“We need a screenings test,” says Gerace. “We need funding for more research to develop that screening test.”
Terri says, unfortunately, that ovarian cancer is a recurring disease. That means that finding advocates who are well enough to help spread the word is difficult.
But Terri says that as long as there are people like Cherri who are will to share their story, change will happen.
Until one day, there is finally a cure.
Doctors say there are no direct symptoms that point to ovarian cancer. A common acronym to remember is BEAT: bloating, eating less and feeling full, abdominal or pelvic pain, and trouble with the bladder. These signs that can also point to other medical issues.
Officials say over 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year and over 14,000 will die from the disease.