By Laura McAlister
Even though Cindi Routman has three children, Mother’s Day isn’t about her. It will always be about her own mother, the late Loyce Dunn Caughlin.
Loyce died of ovarian cancer in 2006 at the age of 76. Since then, Cindi has pledged to honor her mother’s memory by raising awareness about the disease, the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
“I couldn’t save my mom. All I could do was take care of her,” Cindi said. “I can, though, in her honor try to save other women. That’s sort of been my passion – making the symptoms known.”
One way Cindi tries to help other women learn about this disease is by participating in the annual Normal Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s Motherwalk, held on Mother’s Day weekend in Crestline Village. The walk raises funds for ovarian cancer research and increases awareness about the risks and symptoms associated with the disease.
Knowing the symptoms of ovarian cancer is key, Cindi said. As a nurse anesthetist with a husband who is an anesthesiologist, Cindi thought she would have spotted the symptoms in her mother. But she didn’t, and neither did doctors until Loyce had reached the advanced stages of the disease.
“My mom was a healthy 76-year-old,” Cindi said. “She was very health conscious. She exercised, ate right and went to the doctor regularly. She kept saying her stomach hurt, and the doctor was treating her for reflux and things like that. It was never in her ovaries.”
It turns out that abdominal pain is a symptom of ovarian cancer, as is bloating, getting full quickly when eating and having to go to the bathroom frequently.
Cindi said these are all symptoms women have occasionally, but if they are persistent, they need to be checked out by a healthcare professional.
“These are all nagging things that wouldn’t affect your daily life, but if it continues for more than two weeks, then it’s possibly ovarian cancer,” she said. “Women need to know the signs so they can catch it early, which is extremely rare.
“Only about 15 percent catch it at Stage 1. The survival rate is in the 90s then.”
However, most cases are not diagnosed until Stage 4, which has a survival rate of about 20 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cindi said events like the Motherwalk are important in raising the funds to develop better testing to detect ovarian cancer.
“We have the Pap smear, but that has nothing to do with ovarian cancer at all,” she said. “We have the mammogram for breast cancer, but there’s nothing for ovarian cancer.
“We do have the vaginal ultrasound, which is not routinely done, and there’s a blood test that tests for a protein that’s elevated, but it creates a lot of false positives.
“We just need to get people diagnosed earlier. It saves lives.”
Raising awareness has helped save women when it comes to breast cancer. Cindi said mortality rates have dropped thanks to the many events and fundraisers for it. She hopes that one day, through the Motherwalk and other events for ovarian cancer, the teal ribbon – the ribbon for ovarian cancer – is just as recognizable as breast cancer’s pink ribbon.
“I want people to see the teal ribbon and think about the symptoms of ovarian cancer,” she said. “I want them to see teal and immediately think of ovarian cancer. That’s my goal to my mom.”
This Mother’s Day, Cindi’s husband and children will celebrate, as they have for years now, on the Saturday before May 7, by walking in this year’s Motherwalk. It’s become a tradition for the family, and it’s one way Cindi knows she can honor her mother while helping other women.