Executive producer and director Andrea Kalin recently spoke on WAMU's Metro Connection about No Evidence of Disease. Within a few hours, we received this email from Cara Fogarty. The sentiments she expressed here, and the experiences she and her mom went through, are the very reason why we dedicated three years to making this film. We are intent on shattering the silence. With Cara's permission, we are sharing her email with all of you:
"I heard your interview today on WAMU's Metro Connection. I cannot tell you how emotional of an afternoon it has been since I heard it. In a good way, I think...
My mother was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of vulvar cancer in 2004. It was cancer of the Bartholin gland. She survived but went through hell and back, several times. She was treated by an awesome doctor at UVA Medical Center in Charlottesville, Va., Dr. Laurel Rice, who has since moved on to the University of Wisconsin.
When my mother twice had to see a new gynecologic oncology doctor, they would always comment on how rare her cancer was. Something like one in 1.5 million. She, and being her caregiver, me, always felt so alone. There were no web sites, no support groups, no one to talk to, no one to learn from, nothing...
My mother had also had two bouts of breast cancer - unrelated to each other - and she would always comment on how much attention was given to breast cancer and nothing, literally nothing was mentioned about gyn cancers. In fact, she was a five-time cancer survivor beginning with Hodgkins in 1959 when she was 23 years old.
[I] am approaching the one-year anniversary of her passing and I wish she could have known about this group and this documentary. She would be so happy in her heart.
Hearing about this today warmed my heart while at the same time brought up a huge groundswell of emotion.
She passed away at the age of 76 last Nov. 16. She had a stroke three years ago and it robbed her of her ability to walk on her own and of her independence. Her hip had fractured in 2007 as a result of the radiation from the vulvar cancer - the radiation apparently killed the blood supply to the hip (not to mention the other problems caused by the radiation).
A compression fracture in her lower spine is what sent her into the hospital last year, and the belief is the radiation did so much damage to the blood supply to her bones that ultimately perhaps the treatment took her life. Even though the cause of death was listed as aspiration pneumonia, I guess the cancer did take her life although in a different sort of way. Kind of crazy. Although -- she did have eight years of watching her two grandchildren grow up and there was much joy amid the health problems and sadness.
I always hoped to be able to find some outlet to share her story.
I haven't written the book yet ;) but through this band and the documentary, the story - although not about my mom specifically - is being told. Please let these doctors know they have touched me so very deeply today, in a way no one can quite imagine - yet I suspect they will understand.
I also would be happy to share my mom's journey with any other woman or women who are diagnosed with this specific, ugly disease.
Thank you for making the documentary.