A podcast recently focused on a different way of asking how someone is doing. “How are you?” seems like a sincere question, but it often elicits insincere responses like “Fine,” or “Doing well.”
Instead of asking “How are you?” the co-hosts offered “What’s good with you?” It makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? It might compel you to think of something good in your life even if you’re going through a rough patch.
The suggested inquiry came from a new podcast called “Sips With Survivors,” hosted by Vicki Campana of Rocky River and her friend Randalynn Vasel, who lives in St. Louis. Both women are ovarian cancer survivors and breast cancer previvors and they talk about navigating life after cancer. A previvor is someone who has an elevated predisposition to being diagnosed with cancer due to a risk running through their family.
The timing of this episode was perfect for me. I’m undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I’m a six-year survivor who has had three recurrences since my initial diagnosis in May 2015. My most recent recurrence, discovered in April through a PET scan, caught me off guard. I know recurrences are common with this disease, but I had been in remission for nearly two years — my longest remission ever — when I got the unwelcome news.
I started a new round of chemo in May, but another PET scan in July showed that the treatment wasn’t working. Talk about adding insult to injury. I have two tumors and one of them actually got bigger while I was on chemo. I started a new weekly chemo regimen in August with hopes for better results.
There is no screening test for ovarian cancer, so diagnosis can be difficult. Common symptoms are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly and urgent or frequent urination. The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance recommends seeing a doctor, preferably a gynecologist, if you have these symptoms for more than two weeks and they are new or unusual for you. Talk with the gynecologist about ovarian cancer and ask to be referred to a gynecologic oncologist.
Ovarian cancer is the 11th-most common cancer among women, but it’s the fifth-leading cause of women’s cancer-related deaths and the deadliest gynecologic cancer, according to OCRA.
So what’s good with me?
I’m alive. I have an excellent oncology team and a wonderful support network of family and friends. I educate others by writing and speaking about ovarian cancer. Vicki and I met through OCRA’s Survivors Teaching Students program, which takes us into college classrooms (virtually in the pandemic era) to share our stories with future health care professionals.
Molly Callahan is a writer and editor in Rocky River.