Many people diagnosed with a serious health condition never see it coming.
Sure, the signs and symptoms are there, but to what extent do we recognize them as indicators that something is wrong? When it comes to diseases as serious as ovarian cancer, seeing the disease for what it is may elude even the most discerning among us. It’s something a medical professional hopes to change.
“I was 100 per cent shocked,” says Dena Edwards Wadden, from Sydney River, 33, who was diagnosed with mucinous ovarian cancer (a rare form of cancer) days before her daughter’s second birthday .
Last July, Edwards Wadden, a nurse, began experiencing abdominal pain, which was unsurprising considering she had been living with a benign ovarian cyst since 2014.
“I was catching my reflection, and I was just thinking like, ‘Gee, I really carry weight differently,'” says Edwards Wadden, who was training for a half marathon at the time. “I was kind of wearing it in my lower abdomen, but I had a baby the year before so I ignored it.”
A month later, the pain became even more concerning, leading Edwards Wadden to have an ultrasound. A time-lapse ultrasound revealed that the cyst she had been living with for so long had grown to around eight inches.
It was removed the same day as the discovery along with Edwards Wadden’s ovary and fallopian tube. The cyst was sent for pathological examination.
“I received a call from the gynecologist confirming that it was ovarian cancer,” explains Edwards Wadden.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer:
- Urinary frequency
- Weight loss/lack of appetite
- Lower back pain
Officially diagnosed with stage 1 ovarian cancer, Edwards Wadden received an excellent prognosis thanks to early detection, but notes that not everyone is equally lucky.
“One statistic that amazes me is that over the past 50 years there has been no improvement in the survival rate for ovarian cancer. We don’t have any early detection tests… Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because 60-70% of cases are detected at an advanced stage — it’s very anxiety-provoking.
Following his experience, Edwards Wadden began fundraising for the Mucinous Ovarian Cancer Coalition, raising $39,000 for the Michigan-based organization. Seeing the success, she recently decided to raise awareness and funds closer to home.
Edwards Wadden is hosting the first annual Teal to Heal Cape Breton — a walk/run for ovarian cancer on May 8th. All proceeds will be used to support the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation’s Teal at Home Fund and people living with ovarian and other gynecological cancers in Cape Breton.
“We can’t stop you from going to Halifax for this, but we can offer a little support and let you know we’re thinking of you,” says Edwards Wadden, noting the costly travel for many islanders and their families. have to do to meet gynecological oncologists, receive consolations, chemotherapy, surgeries and more.
With over 800 people signing up alongside their families, schools and businesses, Teal to Heal was a success.
“Dena’s dedication to raising funds for Teal to Heal has been inspiring and the support from the community is heartwarming to see,” said Jenna Dunlop, Annual Giving Manager for the Ottawa Regional Hospital Foundation. Cape Breton. “In a short time, she surpassed her initial fundraising goal of $25,000 to support ovarian and other gynecological cancers. It’s truly amazing and we at the foundation are grateful for the support.
Edwards Wadden does not take all the credit.
“I’m so grateful for how the community has come together to give it a life of its own,” says Edwards Wadden, noting, in addition to in-person attendees, people as far afield as China, Costa Rica, India. Australia and Portugal participate virtually.
In addition to the walk/run portion, Teal to Heal will also feature family activities, prizes, live music and an information-rich wellness expo welcoming sponsors, healthcare professionals and financial advisors.
“The Wellness Expo will be a one-stop-shop where people can browse and get essential healthcare information,” adds Edwards Wadden.
Taking place on Sundays at 9am in the County Arena car park in Coxheath, the event ideally falls on World Ovarian Cancer Day and Mother’s Day.
“I hope this will create a conversation,” says Edwards Wadden. “Nothing bad will come out of a conversation about a person’s symptoms and concerns.”
Edwards Wadden is busy preparing for the big day, delighted to see the faces of everyone involved in the caring community effort, which is sure to become a successful annual tradition.
“At times like this, you realize how good people are and how much they want to help,” says Edwards Wadden.
To learn more about Teal to Heal, visit www.tealtoheal.ca. To enter, contact Dena Edwards Wadden at [email protected]
“It scares me to think that a woman could overlook some of the symptoms she has because she had a normal Pap test,” says Dena Edwards Wadden, whose experience in healthcare has awareness of the vague signs and symptoms of gynecological cancers. “For me, awareness is really important, just to make people aware of the symptoms to watch out for.”