My friend Sarah Biedenharn died. She was 82 and had fought a valiant 14 year battle with ovarian cancer–the silent killer. The disease finally took her body but it never won her spirit. I am writing about this because the only way I can think to honor the memory of my friend is to spread a little knowledge about ovarian cancer. Sarah wanted women to become aware of the early symptoms of this disease. Over the years, she funded research in the field–but most of all, she lived with joy and gratefulness in the face of an illness that demanded much from her body but never took over her mind.
I am not a medical expert and if you even think you could be at risk, you should quickly consult a doctor. Sarah did, and it bought her 14 happy years.
Signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer may include:
Abdominal pressure, fullness, swelling or bloating
Pelvic discomfort or pain
Persistent indigestion, gas or nausea
Changes in bowel habits, such as constipation
Changes in bladder habits, including a frequent need to urinate
Loss of appetite or quickly feeling full
Increased abdominal girth or clothes fitting tighter around your waist
A persistent lack of energy
Low back pain
Sarah was a pioneer–Wellesleywoman who was one of three women in her law class at Yale in the 1950s, a licensed pilot, a philanthropist who believed in stewardship. She used her wealth for the benefit of the community.
She was also a Friend. My friend.
I have spoken before about the wisdom of having younger friends–but the gift of friends who are older and ahead of us in life is a rare one and one that I cherished. She taught me much about finance and generosity, about being a woman who stood for her ideas. She taught me how one lives with a disease with grace–a lesson I hope never to use but that I will remember nonetheless. If I think of myself as a philanthropist, it is because Sarah taught me how.
We parted in June when I said my final goodbye in person. I reminded her of all that I had learned from her–we did not shed too many tears while we were together that afternoon, but I know I cried when I left. I knew–and she did too–that was our last goodbye. It was peaceful, it was amazing…what a gift our friendship of 20 years has been. There will always be a little empty spot in my life–Sarah took a little piece of my heart with her.
I know many other people are grieving–if not for Sarah, for one of their beloved ones. I hope they know the journey of grief is full of riches. The tears that bathe it are worth more than rare pearls. I feel connected to the universe this morning as I think of Sarah. I have confidence that she is smiling down at me…
Life is Amazing! Live well.
Thank you for this thoughtful post, Anna. Sarah was incredibly lucky to have a friend like you.
Anna – What a beautiful tribute to your friend Sarah. Thank you for sharing this on your blog. She lives on through your words and tribute.
Anna – undoubtedly she is smiling at you as you educate others about ovarian cancer through her. Thank you for sharing such an important message. Great blog too!
I didn’t have the opportunity to meet Sarah, but she sounds like an amazing Wellesleywoman and friend just like Anna. My thoughts and prayers go out to Sarah’s family and friends.
My heart goes out to you Anna. Thank you for sharing Sarah’s story.
Anna, I am sorry for your loss, but happy for the riches you bestowed upon Sarah and she on you. Thank you for sharing a bit of her life with us.
Thank you, Anna for passing this along in honor of your friend.
Thanks for sharing. It is a great reminder to cherish those who are close to us. May she rest in peace.
A remarkable woman and a lovely tribute. She was amazing and lived well indeed. Not many of us take are able to use illness as a way to reach out to help others. Thank you for honoring her by passing on the information on signs and symptoms. Who knew?