A new mother’s post to Facebook may have helped save the lives of five women she’s never met. Erin Barrett was pregnant with her second child and felt sick the entire time. She assumed it was because of hormones, but as her due date approached, and she got sicker and sicker, she was admitted to hospital.
After numerous tests, she was shocked to learn she had a huge mass on her left side, the growth was bigger than her baby! She was rushed into an emergency C-section when her baby went into distress. Fortunately for everyone, baby Edie was delivered healthy. Erin’s mass, however, turned out to be early stage ovarian cancer.
Erin was shocked and immediately had to go in for chemotherapy, followed by radiation. It was difficult being away from her newborn and not able to breastfeed.
When Edie was 3 months old and Erin was in the middle of her treatment, Erin decided to post about her cancer experience. She had kept her story private, but she was feeling depressed and realized her story could possibly help other women.
With the alarming stats that less than half of the women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive at least five years, Erin wanted more women to be aware of the symptoms and be diagnosed early.
With the blessing of her husband she posted her story on Facebook. Here’s what she wrote:
“I’ve debated long and hard about posting anything here about my health. This feels like a very personal journey, yet, at the same time, one I want to make sure as many women as possible can avoid. So, with raising awareness in mind, I’ve decided to share what’s going on with me and my ovaries. Actually, ovary. Singular.
“I happily gave birth to a wonderful baby girl, Edie, on September 24th. Less joyfully, at the same time I also had my left ovary, fallopian tube, and a nearly 6lb tumour we jokingly named Ozzy removed. Shortly thereafter I was diagnosed with stage 1c, grade 1 ovarian cancer. The stage and grade are important because it means they caught it early.
“I am currently going through chemo and will start radiation at the end of January.
“I feel nothing but positive in regards to my outcome and future plans. Plans that include never facing this again. And growing my hair back.
“People have asked me what they can do to help. This is something I have struggled with as I have been so well looked after. My decision is to ask you all to help me raise awareness.
“They call ovarian cancer the silent killer. This is because the symptoms are so subtle that it is often caught too late. Currently, the odds of getting ovarian cancer are 1 in 58 (compared to 1 in 7 for breast cancer).
“I want the next ten women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer to be diagnosed early. This means I need your help in telling 580 women about the symptoms.
“This is where you come in. Take 15 seconds – that’s all it takes – to tell two or three women in your life about the symptoms. This could be your wife, your mother, your sister, your daughter – any woman you care about. I want to keep a tally below of how many women have been told. Add your women to the list and move the count up (this is mainly so I don’t have to count them all by hand – I’m going through chemo, cut me a break on being lazy ;)
“Here we go:
• Persistent stomach pain
• Persistent bloating
• Finding it difficult to eat or feeling full quickly
• Needing to pee more often
• Back pain
• Changes to bowel habits (constipation or diarrhoea)
• Feeling tired all the time
“If any or all of these are present, especially in women 40+, please PLEASE go see your doctor. You’re not wasting anyone’s time, you’re being smart and ensuring you’ll be around for the long haul for the people you love.
“So, if you want to help me, get on the phone, send an email (or six), grab a coffee with a woman you love and spend 15 seconds talking about this. It could save her life. And, it’ll make me happy (guilt, guilt).
“If you have any questions about my health, my treatment, or about ovarian cancer, send me a message. I realise that opening myself up this way means a lot of you will have questions and I’m happy to answer as best I can.
“Don’t worry, I’ve decided that I’ll be fine, and that’s just the way it is.
“With love, Erin xx
Her post has been shared more than 300,000 times. And more than that, it’s actually helped several women be diagnosed with cancer.
Five women have reached out to Erin to tell her they recognized the symptoms she listed, went to the doctor and have been diagnosed with cancer. Four had ovarian cancer and one had uterine cancer.
All five were diagnosed early and went through surgery. Erin told CTV News, “it gives me shivers.”
“It’s really hard to wrap your head around that an action so small – writing a post at my dining room table one night when I was feeling sorry for myself – could end up impacting five people’s lives that way. It’s so much more than I ever had hoped for. It’s incredible,” she said.
I’ve debated long and hard about posting anything here about my health. This feels like a very personal journey, yet, at…
A year and a half after Erin’s initial chemotherapy, she had another scare and opted for a hysterectomy to reduce the chances of the cancer returning. It was a good thing too, as another tumor was discovered in her right ovary. Erin’s post continues to be shared and she attributes the early diagnosis of the five women as a group effort, thanks to people taking a minute to share what she wrote.
Please take a moment and share Erin’s story with your loved ones.