0912 Cheryl Bourn
Ovarian cancer survivor Cheryl Bourn wears teal in support of the fight against the cancer. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Bourn.
Cheryl Bourn is a Homewood resident and seven-year survivor of stage 3 ovarian cancer. A wife, mother, former medical technologist and former high school science teacher, she is the president of the CanSurvive GYN Cancer Support Group and one recipient of the 2012 American Cancer Society’s Life Inspiration Award.
You seem passionate about letting women know about gyn cancer. What were your symptoms?
I had no idea that I had symptoms of ovarian cancer in 2005. I had extreme fatigue that I thought was due to getting older and having family caregiver duties. Problems with digestion were dismissed as a “stomach bug.” I had persistent bloating that I explained away. However, all my symptoms persisted, and the bloating became very severe. I was very sick by the time I was diagnosed. Most of these symptoms happened in a period of two months.
Why did you not know these were symptoms of ovarian cancer?
At the time I was diagnosed, ovarian cancer was referred to as the “silent killer.” There were no identified symptoms. A couple years later, Dr. Barbara Goff examined charts of many ovarian cancer patients and found that it wasn’t silent after all. Most women had at least one, if not all, of these four symptoms: persistent bloating, eating and feeling full quickly, abdominal or pelvic pain, and increased urinary urgency or frequency. There are other symptoms, too. It is important for women to recognize these symptoms. It is all we have right now until an early screening test is developed.
Tell me two things I might not hear about ovarian cancer.
Although it is mostly middle-aged women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, children and young women can also have it.
About 15 percent of ovarian cancers are hereditary. If breast, ovarian, or colon cancer runs in your family, you may be at an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
What will be going on in September to promote GYN Awareness Month?
Mayor McBrayer will proclaim this to be GYN awareness month. Our awareness color is teal, so you will see teal in many forms. The Capitol building in Montgomery will be lit in teal on Sept. 4 and three buildings at UAB will be lit in teal all month. Friday, September 7 is national Wear Teal Day. You’ll also see more fingernails and toenails painted teal! Camille Ponseti, a Homewood teenager, is inspiring many to sport teal nails this month. You may also see public service announcements, TV spots and signage.