Chicago Lights The Town Teal For Ovarian Cancer

Lisa Fielding
September 13, 2018 - 2:05 pm

Michelle Mekky

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- When you look to the skies over Chicago in September, you will see teal, which signals Ovarnian Cancer Awareness Month. Starting Friday, several downtown buildings will be turning their lights teal in support of the month.

"Teal is the color of Ovarian Cancer Awareness. TEAL stands for Take Action and Live," said Michelle Mekky, Spokesperson, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) Illinois Chapter. "You're going to look up and see the beautiful teal colors across the Hancock Building, the Willis Tower, Prudential Plaza and many more buildings and it's going to last the month of September."

Mekky is a survivor herself, diagnosed with ovarian cancer four years ago.

"I was 43-years old, working like crazy, busy mom, running a company, 80 hours a week, always putting off my health exams. I finally went in for my annual, pap smear," Mekky recalls. "My gynecologist did a pelvic exam and says I think you might have a fibroid and I was sent for an ultrasound. That turned into well, Michelle you have a growth on your ovary and you may need to see an oncologist."

Photo provided by Michelle Mekky

Mekky ended up at the University of Chicago Medicine where she underwent a seven hour surgery.

"This lead to a hysterectomy and full cancer. I was in shock. I had no symptoms and no idea that I was walking around at age 43 with a cancerous tumor in my ovary," she said.

Photo provided by Michelle Mekky

Luckily, Mekky's cancer was stage 1 and it was caught early, but that's not always the case.

"Very rarely is this cancer detected at Stage 1. The statistics say that only 5 percent really find it as early as mine was," she said.

There is no definitive test for the disease and regular pap tests don't screen for it.

Michelle Mekky

"Typically we think that going in and getting a pap test you're going to be ok. That's just the first step. Make your appointment, but it's not that alone. You have to know the symptoms and education yourself. The symptoms are very difficult to diagnose," she said.

They include bloating, urinary problems, fatigue, back pain, constipation.

"I had no idea that boating was a sign. Being extremely tired and feeling full quickly. These symptoms seem common to every day life. Know your body and listen to it. Ask the right questions because sometimes doctors don't know what you're feeling. I just felt like I was stressed and eating bad."

Photo provided by Michelle Mekky

Mekky credits her gynecologist for saving her life.

"Dr. Michael Eisenberg from Women's Health First in Buffalo Grove. He literally found it, he felt it. He's literally the one who saved me. I'm getting emotional," she said.

“In 2018 alone, over 22,240 women will be diagnosed and 14,070 will die from ovarian cancer,” said NOCC Illinois Chapter Manager, Sandra Cord. “Because ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, more than any other gynecological cancer, we need to be proactive about identifying signs and symptoms. Currently, one in 78 women face the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer and in order to reduce those odds we need to invest actionable research.”

Mekky said more funding will hopefully lead to some kind of screening and eventually a cure.

Photo provided by Michelle Mekky

"Doctors are looking to find some kind of blood test to detect it early. I think that's the big goal right now and of course finding a cure, but the first step is really improving the funding for the research to find an earlier way to detect it to save more lives," she said.

"What happened to me was a miracle that it was caught early. I was faced with my own mortality. I had no symptoms. Suddenly I was spared and I got so lucky. It is truly, I feel, a gift from the universe. Somehow I caught it. I don't know why. I feel there's a reason that happened and now I need to teach people and spread the word as best I can."

She said early detection is the key to surviving.

"We can stop this if we more aware," Mekky said.

For more information about the signs of Ovarian Cancer, log onto http://ovarian.org/connect/find-a-local-chapter/illinois