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Volume V Issue XXXVII

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Seattle Washington USA

 

CRISPIN MORRISON: Shouting Out About a Silent Killer
by
GLENNAHELLER
IP Cover Story Editor

 

crispin hiking.jpg (103143 bytes)Crispin Morrison doesn’t 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 didn’t 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…don’t 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 what’s wrong. Maybe I have a brain tumor. Or maybe I’m 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.

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"Listen 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 didn’t call any more because she would refuse all invitations. "I’m exhausted and haven’t really done much of anything." Anxious to find a cause she still thought, "Maybe I’m 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 abdomen.

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 Crispin’s journal instantly beacon her fear. "I’m going to die. I AM GOING TO DIE. I have advanced ovarian cancer and I am going to die."

That’s 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 person’s 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

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Morrison (far left) with friends Paula and Dina

Morrison’s battle with her own cancer has been difficult. One year after the initial surgery, an entry in her journal reads, "Chemo…chemo…chemo! I’m so sick of chemo, I’ve had so much chemo that I could scream!" She has twice lost all her hair. "But," she joked, "I kind of like being bald. It’s a good attention-getter."

"You can’t [just] do the drugs and expect to get better…the cancer effects more than your body. As I was getting chemo and having surgery, I wasn’t 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. I’ve always loved hiking. I started doing some small hikes. Then I got a map and started checking off the hikes I’d 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 it’s very healing to be out in nature. I can literally feel the healing process when I’m out there. Athletics are taken away from you when you have cancer. If you are an active person, that’s 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 you’re afraid. You’re afraid you’re going to hurt yourself, (thinking) what if you do something to move the cancer around? It’s really difficult. Your mind is saying, ‘Stay in bed’. Your body is saying, ‘Move me’."

"I’ve 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 I’m taking an oral chemo and an IV form of the drug once per week. But I’ve had to forego the IV form of the drug for now. My blood count is low. Until I regain some strength I’ll 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

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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 Crispin’s illness saying, "Oh, I’m sure it’s going to be all right. You’re just fine! There’s 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."

ocanlogo.jpg (12805 bytes)Today Crispin Morrison works hard at her new job – the formation of OCAN and educating the public. Her job wasn’t 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. I’m 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/.

GlennaHeller.jpg (15834 bytes) A curious combination of high tech and rustic, Glenna Heller works as a member of Seagate Technology’s engineering information group, lives in a cabin in California’s 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.

 

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