With Grace and Dignity She Walks

Did you know that a woman dies of ovarian cancer every 10 hours?  I didn’t, not until my mom was diagnosed in 2006 and eventually died in 2011. Mom had ovarian cancer symptoms for months but was treated for other causes. This is why ovarian cancer is the deadliest of all gynecological cancers – because a woman’s symptoms mirror symptoms most of us have on a monthly basis – bloating, cramping, lower back pain, pelvic pain. As doctor’s often say - there is no evidence of disease.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, see your doctor. Other symptoms include feeling full after eating, having difficulty eating or experiencing changes in bathroom habits.  Make sure your doctor listens to you.  You are your own best advocate. While there is no test like there is for breast cancer, your doctor can assist you in catching this disease early but you must work together.

I wanted my mom’s death to contribute to others, which is why I wrote When I Die, Take My Panties: Turning Your Darkest Moments into Your Greatest Gifts. The purpose of the book is to educate women about ovarian cancer, but more importantly to inspire people to find the courage and motivation to have the heartfelt conversations they’ve want to have now, and not wait until tragedy strikes to do so. 

In honor of the five-year anniversary of her death, I’d like to share the poem I read at her funeral.


With grace and dignity, she walked, she sauntered, she entered a room, really, captivating anyone who was in her presence with her quiet beauty, intelligence and thirst for knowledge about everything and everyone.

With grace and dignity, she listened—to music, the sound of her husband’s chuckle, the sound of her children playing music, the laughter of her grandchildren;

With grace and dignity, she listened to the words of loved ones, holding those moments dear, offering heartfelt advice, her heart bigger than the Milky Way—carrying so very much love;

With grace and dignity, she spoke, eloquently defending her dissertation, teaching children, teaching teachers, teaching piano, teaching tap dance—so patient, so kind, so tender;

With grace and dignity, she inspired each of us to hold every moment dear, to go for our dreams, to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off when we failed—her belief in us often bigger than our belief in ourselves.

With grace and dignity, she lived, right up until the very end, on her own terms, squeezing every ounce of life out of life, all of us in awe of her strength, her beauty, her gentleness;

With grace and dignity and love we remember her, free now of the body which imprisoned her;

With grace and dignity, she now walks;

Starlit, moonlight serenading ocean breezes filling the air as she tap dances along the shoreline,

Arms raised overhead, dancing between the waves, taking her final bow, her final curtain call. – September 18, 2011