|| CRISPIN MORRISON: Shouting Out About a Silent Killer
IP Cover Story Editor
||Crispin Morrison doesnt know when exactly the
changes started to occur, though she is agonizingly clear that she suppressed the
knowledge of those changes for a while.
In 1999 the thirty-seven year old had just been
promoted to her dream job in Seattle as a certified computer technician. She had friends
who loved her and whom she loved. Fully involved in life, Morrison appreciated nature,
made positive contributions where she could, playing and working hard, living a happy,
balanced, and successful life.
But something was wrong. Morrison just didnt feel well.
Why was she tired all the time, she asked herself? Why did she feel so achy and
feverish? She ate a healthy vegetarian diet and was not overweight. She had an exercise
regimen. What was wrong? "Crampy, sore, bloated, fatigued
dont all women
feel like this now and then? Maybe this just goes with being a female," she thought.
What else could she do?
Two doctor appointments later she received advice suggesting she was experiencing
stress from her new job. Morrison thought, "I feel even worse. No one can tell me
whats wrong. Maybe I have a brain tumor. Or maybe Im just a hypochondriac.
Maybe if I exercise more
She was referred to a psychologist who advised that her depression was manifesting in
her body, and different kinds of antidepressants were tested. At one point she was told
that she had chronic fatigue syndrome. After five appointments she thought, "These
antidepressants are not working at all. I still feel sick all the time."
Nothing her doctors recommended worked. She had lost her appetite and was able to sip
only tea all day. Oddly, although she passed up nearly all meals and was losing weight,
her stomach was continuously bloated.
to your intuition about your body," says Morrison, "and be informed."
In her diary Morrison wrote, "All I can seem to manage to do is go to work
and come home to crash." Her friends didnt call any more because she would
refuse all invitations. "Im exhausted and havent really done much of
anything." Anxious to find a cause she still thought, "Maybe Im just under
too much stress at work."
As she went to doctor after doctor, appointment after appointment, Morrison knows now
she ignored her intuitive instincts that told her, over and over again, something very
real is very wrong.
The Silent Killer
So it continued until one day in May 1999. She awoke in the morning and felt a huge
lump the size of an egg in her pelvis that actually protruded under the skin of her
One day later her gynecologist finally sent her to a different specialist a
gynecologic oncologist, who performed a CT scan.
Two days and one surgery later the news was delivered by a somber oncologist -- she had
advanced ovarian cancer, stage IIIc.
Words from Crispins journal instantly beacon her fear. "Im going to
die. I AM GOING TO DIE. I have advanced ovarian cancer and I am going to die."
Thats when Crispin Morrison became very serious about living.
After her surgery, Morrison moved from Seattle to Las Vegas, Nevada to live near her
parents. Looking for ways to assist others in their encounters with this Silent Killer,
as ovarian cancer is called, she discovered that Nevada had no organization to educate
women about ovarian cancer and Morrison knew first-hand just how vital education was. It
was due to the lack of knowledge in her own circumstance that had led to such a late
diagnosis in her life.
Knowing the signs
Morrison worked within the confines of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance to form
OCAN, the acronym for Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Nevada. She was determined to redefine
ovarian cancer from "silent" to overt, publicized, recognized and well known
because she knew that early diagnosis would save lives. (Click Now to see Insert A, Ten Warnings
Signs of Ovarian Cancer.)
Amazingly, too few gynecologists and other doctors know the warning signs. Because of
this, they are late to make the referrals to gynecologic oncologists who could diagnose
the disease in its early stages.
Instead of relying on the medical profession to come up to speed in their training,
Morrison believes adamantly that we are each responsible for our own bodies. It is each
persons responsibility to know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, symptoms
which are easily and often mistakenly attributed to other conditions. (Click now to see Insert B, What to Do If You
Suspect Ovarian Cancer.)
"The most important thing a woman can do is to listen to her intuition about her
own body," Morrison emphasizes. "Many women ignore symptoms of things we know
are wrong. For example, I could have gone to the doctors sooner. Get to the bottom of it
and find out!
Listen and act on messages from your own body!"
The attitude of a survivor
|Morrison (far left) with friends Paula
Morrisons battle with her own cancer has been difficult. One year after the
initial surgery, an entry in her journal reads, "Chemo
Im so sick of chemo, Ive had so much chemo that I could scream!" She has
twice lost all her hair. "But," she joked, "I kind of like being bald.
Its a good attention-getter."
"You cant [just] do the drugs and expect to get better
effects more than your body. As I was getting chemo and having surgery, I wasnt able
to participate in life very much. There were times I would feel good for a week or two in
between (treatments). I needed a goal. Ive always loved hiking. I started doing some
small hikes. Then I got a map and started checking off the hikes Id done. I noticed
that I was doing more, and then I decided to do them all. This made me feel a part of life
and normal, and its very healing to be out in nature. I can literally feel the
healing process when Im out there. Athletics are taken away from you when you have
cancer. If you are an active person, thats one of the first things one of the
saddest things to go. You have to fight to get it back. One of the things that got me up
and walking was walking around with a tennis racket and ball around my house, and then
outside. (Each day) a little bit longer, then I hit the ball against a wall. (Doctors) say
be active as soon as possible. But youre afraid. Youre afraid youre
going to hurt yourself, (thinking) what if you do something to move the cancer around?
Its really difficult. Your mind is saying, Stay in bed. Your body is
saying, Move me."
"Ive never been in remission," Morrison shares. "Through surgery,
chemo and radiation the cancer (has found) its way around all those things and keeps
growing. Right now Im taking an oral chemo and an IV form of the drug once per week.
But Ive had to forego the IV form of the drug for now. My blood count is low. Until
I regain some strength Ill just take the oral form of chemo. My disease has spread
from my pelvis and is now also in my neck."
For patient, doctor, or friend cancer is hard to talk about
|The Teal Ribbon is the nationally recognized ribbon
color for awareness and support of Ovarian Cancer.
Not long after her diagnosis Morrison shared her fears with a friend. Her friend,
probably in a well meaning attempt to be optimistic and supportive, denied the seriousness
of Crispins illness saying, "Oh, Im sure its going to be all right.
Youre just fine! Theres nothing to worry about." But Morrison had had
enough of being told it was all in her head. In her attempt to be taken seriously,
Crispin responded, "No, I am not all right! I am sick. And this is serious."
Morrison then felt guilty for months wondering if she had created her own self-fulfilling
prophecy, somehow convincing her own body to be sick. Now she encourages people to simply
listen to their friend or family member, allowing them a safe place to talk about their
feelings, and offering as much emotional support as possible.
Doctors, too, must know how to communicate with their cancer patients, Morrison says.
She and her oncologist, who is on the OCAN Board of Directors, are now working to create
opportunities for other doctors to receive coaching from Crispin about how to communicate
most effectively with their ovarian cancer patients. "Doctors need to know that what
they say [to a patient] is like God speaking. Their words create a reality."
Today Crispin Morrison works hard at her new job the
formation of OCAN and educating the public. Her job wasnt even envisioned two years
ago. Since then the cancer spread to her neck and she has undergone more surgery.
Reflecting, she adds, "So many things have changed in my life and they are all for
the better. Im willing to try new things (and) take risks. Looking back on my life,
I realize I was a negative thinker and quite skeptical about things. Now I feel open to
possibilities and ideas."
You can visit the OCAN web site at http://www.ocan.org/
and email Crispin at ovarian@OCAN.org/.
A curious combination of high tech and rustic, Glenna Heller works
as a member of Seagate Technologys engineering information group, lives in a
cabin in Californias Santa Cruz Mountains and writes by the light of her
wood-burning stove amid giant California redwoods. Glenna is a 12- year student of A
Course in Miracles and embraces a lifetime commitment to transformational technology,
beauty and true love wherever it might be found. You can email her at glenna@IncrediblePeople.com.