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On August 31, teal will take over Little Rock when Arkansas Ovarian Cancer Coalition kicks off ovarian cancer awareness month. Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer and it will affect 1 in 72 women in their lifetime, but the effects of ovarian cancer touch all of us.
Leah Elliot was 35 when she received her diagnosis with ovarian cancer in 2006 after months of unexplained symptoms and misdiagnoses. After Leah’s pain became unbearable, she had an ultrasound that revealed a three pound tumor. Two days later, Leah underwent a complete hysterectomy to remove the cancerous mass, but this mother of two would still endure multiple rounds of chemotherapy to eradicate the cancer. During this time, Leah’s entire family, including her young daughters and countless friends, encountered the fear that a cancer diagnosis brings.
The likelihood of surviving ovarian cancer is low due to its often late diagnosis. The day Leah learned she had cancer was, in her words, the day she became both a fighter and a survivor.
When Leah’s hair started falling out, her daughters, then ages 9 and 4, grabbed the scissors and took turns giving their mother a haircut. For Leah, watching her daughters walk through this journey with her was one of the hardest parts of facing ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because the symptoms are easily missed or misdiagnosed in the early stages of the disease. Only 19 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed early, and by the time more advanced symptoms develop, the survival rate drops drastically.
Early diagnosis is key to helping women survive ovarian cancer, but most women are unaware of the symptoms.
The most common symptoms of ovarian cancer include:
It’s important to note that when these symptoms are caused by ovarian cancer, they signify a change from normal. If a woman experiences these symptoms more often than normal or they are more severe, or she experiences them almost daily for more than several weeks, she should see her gynecologist.
Leah was diagnosed with stage 2B cancer, a relatively late stage of ovarian cancer. Fortunately for Leah, her daughters, and all of the friends and family supporting her, she survived and continues to thrive, nine years after her cancer diagnosis.
One year after Leah Elliott was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she realized she had a choice. Instead of asking God, “Why me?” she prayed God would show her what she could do with her cancer experience.
She found a small group of people affected by ovarian cancer working under the umbrella of Arkansas Cancer Coalition. In 2008, they became the Arkansas Ovarian Cancer Coalition (AROCC). Now Leah promotes awareness so other women won’t miss the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and so they won’t walk through the trials of ovarian cancer alone.
August 31st is Teal Light Night, an event AROCC began to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. Many bridges in Little Rock will be lit in teal, the official color of ovarian cancer. Teal Light Night includes a silent auction, appetizers and drinks, plus the chance to sponsor luminaries in honor or memory of those who’ve experienced ovarian cancer. To purchase tickets, visit arkansasovariancancer.org or their Facebook page.
For those in Northwest Arkansas, a Teal Talk Luncheon will be held September 8th.
First Security Bank invites all its fans on social media to participate in Teal Toes. Post pictures of your teal painted nails in September. Use the hashtag #fsbtealtoes across social media networks to show off your toes and spread awareness of ovarian cancer. Best of all, they will donate $2 to the Arkansas Ovarian Cancer Coalition for each photo posted.
Nine years after her cancer diagnosis, Leah Elliott will celebrate Teal Light Night in the hopes that her story will help many other women detect and survive ovarian cancer.
TEAL Light Night photos used with permission by Leah Elliott and AROCC.
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