Harts of Teal, a faith-based non-profit started by two ovarian cancer survivors.

Shaylee Bedward Downs was a bright light in this world. She inspired many people as she walked a tough road this side of heaven. After being diagnosed with stage 3c low grade serous ovarian cancer on October 18, 2017, Shaylee never let this disease take away her tenacity, wit, and grace. She made a point to teach women to be their own advocate and to become aware of ovarian cancer, no matter your age. Shaylee‘s journey lasted for four years. She gained her teal wings 5 weeks before her 28th birthday. Her family and husband will continue to let Shaylee’s Light shine on.

In her own words, here is her story:

I wanna share the story of my diagnosis & how…I even found out I had cancer in the first place…I’ve always been a pretty healthy individual. Like how does the girl who lives an all-natural, organic, meat free, processed free, everything-under-the-sun-free life get cancer!? I thought I was doing everything right! I never had to go to the doctor & hardly ever got sick even during cold & flu season.

In 2014 I started experiencing severe shooting pain near both of my ovaries. It would come & go so I didn’t think much of it. After experiencing these symptoms for much longer than TOM (time of the month for my dude frands), I decided to schedule an appointment with my college’s Women’s Center. After speaking with two doctors at the center, they found nothing wrong with me. They automatically ruled out cancer because I was too young. NEWS FLASH: CANCER DOESN’T CARE HOW YOUNG YOU ARE!!!! They told me I probably pulled a muscle while working out & that I should feel fine after a couple days or weeks of recovery. I went home & the pain subsided after about a week or so & I kind of forgot about the whole thing. This should have been red flag #1. Bloating & abdominal discomfort are signs of ovarian cancer. But how would I have known that when bloating & abdominal discomfort can be caused from SO MANY other issues!? ESPECIALLY when you’re a woman!

 

Fast forward to 2015 when I started having bladder issues. As in I literally peed my pants like 50% of the times I went out…I had some pretty close encounters at work…too. Yes I’m serious. It was not a fun time & I donned the nickname “Pissy” bc it became such an issue…I went back to the Women’s Center & they referred me to a urologist. The urologist told me I had an over-reactive bladder & prescribed me muscle relaxers so that my bladder wouldn’t tell my brain I had to pee as often as I needed to. I was humiliated & embarrassed by the situation so I took matters into my own hands. I figured if I drank less water I’d have to pee less & that was my “solution” to my problem. It eventually subsided on its own & I never thought about it again. This should have been red flag #2. I even went to the same Women’s Center!! They had all my records & previous symptoms right in front of their eyes!!!!

 

In 2016 I went in for my annual women’s wellness checkup & my test results came back with LSIL, which stands for “low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion”. This meant I had pre-cancerous cells on my ovaries. I wasn’t informed of this. No one ever mentioned a single word about cancer. My doctor called me & left a voicemail saying my test came back abnormal, but that there was nothing to worry about & we’d just do another test next year to make sure it normalized itself. I thought nothing of it bc my doctor reassured me there was nothing to worry about. She wasn’t being 100% transparent with me. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t dig for answers. In all these situations I just dealt with the answers I was given. I didn’t fight for myself. I didn’t fight for my health. & wasn’t informed. & now I’m paying for not taking care of myself.

In 2017 I made an appointment with my GYN. She almost didn’t see me since it hadn’t been a full year & said I wasn’t due for a checkup. I demanded she do a pelvic exam. Something just felt off…Immediately her eyes got big & she looked at me dead in the face I said I needed to have an ultrasound ASAP…She found a pelvic mass the size of a softball…

That’s when things started to move REAL FAST. I was referred to an ultrasound tech who, after seeing the results, confirmed the possibility of malignancy, and immediately referred me to a Gynecologic Oncologist. I had never heard of that kind of doctor before but I knew it meant cancer. I was terrified. My GYN ONC had me jump right into surgery as that’s the only way to truly diagnosis Ovarian Cancer…

Everyone reassured me it was Endometriosis because I was “too young” to have cancer…

Well…it did indeed turn out to be stage IIIc Ovarian Cancer.

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I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your body! LISTEN TO IT!! If you’re not getting answers from your doctor then see someone else! Be your own advocate! I share my story to raise awareness in hopes that I might save just one persons life or AT LEAST make people more aware of themselves & how they’re taking care of themselves.

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