In memory of my sister…September Ovarian Cancer Awareness month

Ovarian. Cancer. Sucks.

I know first-hand. I lost my sister, Jane, to this silent killer at the early age of 53.

A graduate of the College of Saint Rose with a major in business, she built a banking and finance career in the Capital District.  Her love for elevating people around her was manifested by volunteering to numerous causes, such as Zonta, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and the Festival of Trees. Married to her high school sweetheart, Jane became an incredible mother to three amazing sons, David, Danny and Michael. A loyal friend, who was well-known for her ice cream sandwich cakes, homemade deep-dish apple pies, traditional Christmas cookies and carrot cakes.

My sister loved summer vacations with her family and friends in Wildwood Crest, NJ. She especially loved bicycle rides on the Boardwalk, Veggie Diablo from Primo Hoagies, ice-cold ocean cocktails and the annual wine tour at the Finger Lakes.

Jane became an aunt and godmother. She had a new home and her first-born went off to college.

Life was good!

Then in 2011 everything changed.

Jane started having dull, intermittent bouts of left lower back pain that she self-treated with ibuprofen and a heating pad. The pain persisted. Her lumbar sacral X-rays were negative and physical therapy helped a little. Next, there was a urinary tract infection that seemed to never end, even with repeated courses of antibiotics.

After being seen by various specialists, my sister became discouraged and depressed. One night, lying in bed, she palpated a mass on the left side of her lower abdomen. The next day she was examined by a nurse practitioner and got a CT. Jane was later told she had masses throughout her abdomen, involving her ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, kidney, small intestine, diaphragm and lymph nodes. Cancer was the most likely cause.

In less than 24 hours, my sister’s world turned upside down. With her permission, Jane’s physician called me. As a Registered Nurse, I immediately went into nurse mode, collecting information and taking orders. I wanted to book the GYN oncology surgeon that evening while hoping for a miracle.

Unstoppable and fierce, Jane kept traveling and hosting parties. And, above all, she stayed strong in her faith. After four years of aggressive treatment, she passed onto heaven.

Now, three years without my sister physically here, I catch myself saying, “I can’t wait to tell Jane…” or “I’ll call her when she’s out of work…”

From heaven, she watched her son, Dave, graduate from Albany College of Pharmacy and get married this past August to the beautiful Stephanie. She attended Danny’s Niagara University graduation and is with him as he starts working on his MBA. I’m confident she hounds him to keep the car clean (😊). She also looked on with pride as Michael graduated from high school and recently started college.

So, here’s my pitch. Only 19% of ovarian cancer is found early. Women, PAY attention to your body and your symptoms and speak the heck up! You only have one body so stay in tune with it. During your office visit with your primary care provider, muster up the courage to tell them how you physically feel. Please (I’m on the loud speaker now) YOU AREN’T A BOTHER TO THEM.

Please contribute to our efforts to expand knowledge about ovarian cancer. If we can save one life, my sister’s death won’t be in vain. Also, keep the local support groups, like the Capital Region’s Caring Together, thriving.

Join “Jane’s Army” and walk, run or, most important, donate to their annual event at Albany’s historic Washington Park this Sunday, Sept 9.

We hope to see you there.