HOPE for a cure to my mum’s ovarian cancer was always in our conversations.
Mum was in remission for 10 years and passed away 8 years ago and I still have questions that I wished we had discussed. Instead, we spent most of our time talking about a cure, a miracle. I now wonder if we were trying too hard to stay positive? It never occurred to me during the time of mum’s remission, that it might have been helpful to discuss our fears, doubts and insecurities. I guess no one really wants to talk about the messiness or the real truths that cut through one’s life when ovarian cancer catches us unaware and unprepared.
My mum came from a different generation. She was born in the 1930’s when women’s health, especially sexual health, did not get any airtime. Mum’s relationship with her mother reflected this, and their connection was quite formal. Mum never gave me any information about my body either. And there was definitely no sexuality education or any conversations around this subject. With this background, any of mum’s symptoms of bloating, abdominal pains or changes to sexuality were most likely ignored or unrecognisable. This meant that any possible signs of ovarian cancer creeping into her cellular structures had no luck or chance of being detected early.
Perhaps, from this type of insight, we learn that we need to teach young children and young adults the language to create a dialogue about articulating any symptoms that may arise with their sexual health.
Mum’s journey with ovarian cancer was a conversation more about the symptoms of all her treatments. The loss of her reproductive organs, her sexual identity, the dramatic changes to her body, the intrusion of massive surgery, her relationship with dad, her sex drive and love of her own body were all topics we didn’t even come close to discussing. My regret is that we had so much time to talk and we never did. I am definitely an advocate for talking about the too hard basket of sexuality. But in keeping an ongoing dialogue, where do we start?
Recently, both my sister (58 years of age) and myself (55 years of age) had our ovaries and fallopian tubes taken out as a preventative measure to ensure we do not get ovarian cancer. Making this decision to let a significant part of my sexuality go was big. I felt a bit sad to be losing them. They had served me well, providing me with two incredible children and transitioning me into menopause. Thankfully, Pink Hope was there to talk to both my sister and I and help us through the process.
I remember one starry night, standing on the balcony at my mums’ apartment overlooking Cronulla Beach, we gazed up at the fullness of the moon. It was so beautiful, so perfect. She said, ‘the moon will always come up, even when I’m gone.’ I still think about her words. To my surprise, photos taken during my surgery presented me with an actual close-up just before they were removed – a soft white delicate form, both shaped perfectly like a full moon.
- Do not be scared to discuss fears, doubts and insecurities with loved ones.
- We need to know ourselves intimately first, prior to needing to communicate our sexuality health with others.
- Be informed and confident in your choices.