Woman uses cancer experience to educate othersWritten by Mary Beth Scherer | | email@example.com
As Miriam Leeper-Kende listened to her son play piano, an indescribable feeling came over her.
“It was like a dark cloak,” Leeper-Kende said. “I heard a voice whisper, ‘Life as you know it is over.’ ”
Later that March 2007 evening, Leeper-Kende’s son, Isaac Weintraub, who knew his mother had been experiencing problems and who lost his stepmother to cancer in February 2007, said to his mother, “You will get a CAT scan when you get home.”
Leeper-Kende was visiting her son after donating 10 inches of her once long and wavy brown hair to Locks of Love on St. Patrick’s Day, anxious to show off her new hairdo.
Leeper-Kende had experienced inexplicable pains in her rib area before, but had recently discovered lumps.
“I knew something was severely wrong with my body,” Leeper-Kende said.
Leeper-Kende said her son’s insistence led to the CAT scan that saved her life.
Leeper-Kende was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on April 13, 2007.
Leeper-Kende, who has survived cancer for a year and a half, sports black hair that forms perfect curls around her face.
She works as a graphic designer for TolTest and has been married to her husband Ivan Kende since August 2006.
As she talks about her battle with cancer, she is emotional but passionate about her message to women to be “vigilant about their health.”
“The good thing is, if you’re vigilant, you will find results,” Leeper-Kende said. “If something’s not right, don’t stop trying to get the answer.”
Ovarian cancer is cancer that forms in the tissues of the ovary, which is one of a pair of female reproductive glands in which the ova, or eggs, are formed.
According to the Lucas County Adult Health Assessment, from 2003 to 2005, the leading causes of cancer deaths for Lucas County women were lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic and ovarian cancers.
Gynecologic Oncologist Dr. Garth Phibbs said although there are not many signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, some symptoms include persistent abdominal pain and persistent bloating.
“The key is persistence,” Phibbs said. “If it comes and goes, it’s less likely to be important.”
Phibbs, who has the largest gynecological oncology practice in the Toledo area, said the vague symptoms of ovarian cancer make early diagnosis difficult.
“Over 75 percent of cases are advanced beyond the ovary when diagnosed,” Phibbs said.
To test for ovarian cancer, doctors use vaginal ultrasound, rectal and vaginal exams and the CA125 blood test, Phibbs said.
“The CA125 blood test can be used as a screening method, but it is not 100 percent specific to ovarian cancer,” Phibbs said.
Phibbs said within a short time, tests to screen for ovarian cancer will improve in their specificity.
Currently, screening is reserved for women who have a family history of ovarian cancer, have had breast cancer before the age of 50 or have had one or two types of cancer, Phibbs said.
“If we use these tests on everyone, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary surgery because of the benign conditions that can cause modest elevation in CA125 levels,” Phibbs said.
There are 25,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year in the United States, and one in 70 women will have this disease, Phibbs said.