Catherine, Lillian, Dee, Polly, Joanie ...
These are the names of beautiful, strong women I know whose bodies weren't strong enough to overpower ovarian cancer.
Their bodies weren't, oh, but their spirit certainly was. They kicked butt and have forever touched my spirit. I guess I first became aware of ovarian cancer when my Aunt Catherine was diagnosed and died from the disease at 50. She willed herself to stay alive long enough to see her first grandchild, and hold him in her arms. Catherine was the youngest of four girls, my mom's baby sister.
When I was asked to begin emceeing a dinner for Ovarian Awareness of Kentucky, I knew it was a special calling. Melissa Swan and I have been sharing the duties for years, our way of speaking out about a silent killer of women. Silent because the symptoms are vague, and often undetected in women until it's too late.
That's what happened to Dr. Lillian Yeagar, a woman I got to know through OAK. Elegance and eloquence were her staples throughout her fight.
Dee Edwards was only 32 when she found out she had ovarian cancer. She thought it was a stomach flu -- it wasn't. She would die this past April at 38 years old, her son is only 8. Her lessons on life and death live on through a journal she kept through her illness. One of her lessons to Sean -- dance like nobody's watching.
Then along came Polly, the mother of one of my dear friends. I watched my friend care for her mom through the ravages of this terrible disease. Her body frail and stooped by ovarian cancer, but Polly stood tall until the very end. She loved anything to do with nature, so on my last visit I brought bright, fragrant flowers. Polly marveled at their beauty and smell, I marveled at her.
And Joanie, who showed up at every baseball and lacrosse game to cheer on her boys. She wore her signature ball cap and always had her chair in the front row. She took in A Chorus Line just days before her battle would end. At her funeral, her minister told us she never wanted to talk or plan for her service, she had too much living to do.
All of these women had more living to do -- and to me, they were all bigger than life. Not just because of how they lived, but how they died, fighting until the end.
I learned valuable lessons from all of them.
To honor their spirit, I remind all women to be vigilant about their health. I don't want to be silent about a silent killer -- so I SHOUT the following -- educate yourself about warning signs and listen to the whispers of this disease.
We owe it to ourselves, and I owe it to Catherine, Lillian, Dee, Polly and Joanie.