Woman taking cancer research,awareness advocacy ever higher
By Carrie ClickPost Independent StaffSean Patrick didn’t think her life would take the turns it has. The 53-year-old Carbondale resident, who lives high in the mountains north of town, was a successful marketing executive and an avid rock climber when in 1997 she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”I thought, ‘I exercise, I work out. This is not a disease that happens to me and my friends,'” said Patrick. “It happens to elderly women, not young, fit women.”Now, seven years and seven surgeries later, she is a leading advocate for ovarian cancer research and awareness, and the founder of HERA, taken from the name of a Greek goddess known for speaking out.September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and Patrick is busy.She will be featured on “The Jane Pauley Show” today (see box), which follows HERA’s second annual Climb for Life ascent of the Grand Teton near Jackson Hole, Wyo., this past July.And Patrick is preparing for HERA’s “Climb for Life” in Salt Lake City, an annual event that raises money for ovarian cancer research and awareness of the disease.From Sept. 16-19, the “Climb” incorporates daily fund-raising rock climbing (participants earn pledge money for the amount of feet they climb), professional climbers, massage, yoga, parties, food and the Adrenaline Film Fest, an evening of short adventure films. Taking control
This week, Patrick’s office was piled high with brochures, posters and products for Salt Lake.”This is shwag central,” she said, looking around at the boxes stacked around her desk from corporate sponsors like Black Diamond, Nike, REI, Patagonia and Exum. “The biggest focus for us is to empower women to take control of their health. My goal is to get women to trust their intuition.” Patrick knows what she’s talking about. She first started noticing symptoms of her disease in 1996. “Ovarian cancer has been called the ‘silent killer.'” she said. “I hate that, because this cancer has symptoms (see box). Studies have shown only 3 percent of women who have ovarian cancer don’t have any symptoms. The rest do.” Her storyPatrick said her symptoms began with being woken up at 3 a.m. by intense abdominal pains.”The doctors thought it was indigestion, acid reflux disease or irritable bowel syndrome,” she said. “They thought it was my gall bladder. After a year, she got a CA-125 test, a blood test which can show the presence of ovarian cancer, as well as endometriosis.”It’s known as being an unreliable test,” she said. “I took it numerous times but my values were so low they didn’t think it was ovarian cancer.”At this point, Patrick’s self-described “Type A” personality was kicking into gear. “I like to be in control,” she said, so she began doing her own research on what could be wrong with her. She discovered she needed to consult with a gynecological oncologist – there are none in this area, but five excellent specialists are located in Denver. That’s when she found out she had ovarian cancer – a hidden tumor tucked high in her rib cage – and it was at Stage 3C. Ovarian cancer has only four stages.
Empowering women”When I was diagnosed, it didn’t really register that I could die,” she said. “I’m a control freak, so I clicked into overdrive and researched everything.”Patrick got second, third and fourth opinions, at Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts General, and found a gynecological pathologist at Johns Hopkins. It was there that she became part of a clinical trial that looked at “out of the box” ways to deal with the disease.It’s been a long road. Three years ago, she was given just four to six weeks to live, culminating in a Flight for Life trip to Johns Hopkins for emergency surgery.Now, as she gets ready for “Climb for Life” in Salt Lake, she equates climbing with confronting cancer. “Going when you don’t want to go, digging deeper, holding it together – all those things you need in climbing help with cancer,” she said. “My goal is to empower women and give them more control.”Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org minutes of fameThe HERA Foundation will get its 15 minutes of fame today, Tuesday, Sept. 7, when Sean Patrick and HERA’s Climb For Life July 2004 ascent of the Grand Teton is featured on the nationally syndicated Jane Pauley Show:• 10 a.m., Denver’s Channel 7
• 2 p.m., Grand Junction’s KGJCT Channel 8For more information about HERA and its activities, visit http://www.ovariancancer.jhmi.edu/climb, or contact HERA, Box 664, Carbondale, CO 81623, 970-948-7360. know the symptoms of ovarian cancerFrom the HERA FoundationSigns and symptoms:• Abdominal pressure, bloating or discomfort.• Nausea, indigestion or gas.• Urinary frequency, constipation or diarrhea.• Abnormal bleeding.• Unusual fatigue.• Unexplained weight loss or gain.• Shortness of breath. Take action and consult a health care professional if any symptoms persist for 2-3 weeks and are unusual for you. Early detection is key to surviving ovarian cancer.Take action and consult a health care professional if any symptoms persist for 2-3 weeks and are unusual for you. Early detection is key to surviving ovarian cancer.
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