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Racing against a ‘silent killer’: Valley resident Caroline Mancini battles ovarian cancer, urges awareness
In 2010, when Ames Lake resident Caroline Mancini was training for a three-day walk for breast cancer, she was short of breath and couldn’t climb.
She had noticed other health problems – indigestion, bloating and backaches—but put off dealing with them.
“It really only hit me when I was walking. There’s something wrong,” Mancini realized. “I shouldn’t be breathless.”
It took a month of scans and tests for the truth to come out—doctors discovered she had ovarian cancer. This week, as Mancini marks her third year in the struggle against the disease, she feels healthy, positive and is in training to do the Rivkin Center SummeRun on July 21.
Attracting more than 3,500 participants and volunteers annually, the SummeRun is a community event to raise awareness and funds for ovarian cancer, recently raising more than $6 million for medical research and education in the treatment, early detection and prevention of ovarian cancer. All proceeds go directly to benefit the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research.
“Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer,” Mancini said. “It’s not silent, it screams. We just don’t recognize the screams. Most women do not know them.”
Mancini is involved with a project called Survivors Educating Students, spreading the word about ovarian cancer symptoms so other women don’t have to go through what she has experienced.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include a sense of bloatedness, feeling full very quickly when eating, a tendency to urinate often, indigestion and backache.
“It feels like you just had a bad pizza,” she said. “It’s so easy to ignore.”
Indigestion passes quickly, but Mancini felt her symptoms for six months.
“The thing about ovarian cancer symptoms is they stay with you,” she said. If your “bad pizza” feeling lasts beyond a week, you need to check in with a doctor, she says.
Mancini discovered she had cancer at a late stage.
“If only I had taken myself earlier to the doctor,” said Mancini. “I have a big battle on my hands.”
Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths for women. If caught early, the chance of survival is strong. Caught late, it’s deadly. Mancini has been through two remissions.
“I’m still here, a bit of the exception to the rule,” she said. “I’m still able to carry on my life.”
Mancini, 51, is married to husband Daren; they moved from England for Daren to work in the software industry in Washington. They have two children, Joe, 18, and Bella, 16. Mancini is excited to be back on her feet now, taken off a drug that made it impossible to walk. Her rescue dogs, Skye and Cubby, keep her moving.
“My two dogs have been a bit of a lifeline for me,” said Mancini, who is now “walking with a vengeance.”
On July 21, Mancini will be part of her Teal Team of friends, family and fellow cancer survivors, taking part in the SummeRun around Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
“It’s a fabulous walk. It’s for an amazing charity—I’m still here because of research,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to see a different part of Seattle.”
For more information, visit www.SummeRun.org
• Too many women with Ovarian Cancer do not get diagnosed until their cancer has spread. The survival rate is 45%.
• The survival rate improves greatly (to 93%) if the cancer is diagnosed at an early stage before it has spread.
• Approximately 75% of Ovarian Cancer cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
• There is no test for Ovarian Cancer. A PAP test does not detect Ovarian Cancer.