American Family Children's Hospital

Sharrie Heibl, Sowing the Seeds of Hope

When Sharrie Heibl experienced ongoing spotting, her physician attributed it to menopause. It wasn't until Heibl's sister-in-law was diagnosed with advanced endometrial cancer that she began to think the spotting could be something more.

Meet Sharrie Heibl in Words and Pictures
Meet Sharrie in words and pictures


So she pushed her physician a little harder to investigate further. That's when a biopsy and ultrasound showed she had endometrial cancer.


"I'm fortunate because my cancer was contained in the uterus," said Heibl.


Shortly after surgery to remove the cancer, Heibl turned her thoughts towards how she could help other women.


"I started looking for ways to spread the word so other people wouldn't be surprised as I was," she explained. "Beauty and the garden seemed to be a good way to do that."


Gardening had been a part of Heibl and her husband's life. And, she knew that being surrounded by the beauty of the flowers created a perfect place for people to sit and visit with each other.


"Sometimes if it's quiet you share things that are deeper than at other times," commented Heibl.


To help spread the message, Heibl created small pamphlets. On one side are colorful pictures of flowers, on the other, the signs and symptoms of gynecologic cancers.


"I wanted to create something that was pretty that people would pick up to look at, and there would be all of the symptoms," she said.


With the help of her son, Heibl also created a website with information on the signs and symptoms.

 "We just got an email from someone in Virginia, so it's really out there now," said Heibl.


Just as in Heibl's case, the symptoms for many of the gynecologic cancers can be mistaken for other conditions. That is often why the cancer isn't caught until it's in the advanced stage. So for Heibl, she wants to raise women's awareness and encourage them to speak to their doctors if they have concerns.


"I'm a three year survivor, so this is a message of hope. If we can get more awareness, we can get more hope," she concluded.


Signs and Symptoms of Gynecologic Cancers


Ovarian Cancer

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficult eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

Endometrial Carcinoma

  • Any bleeding after menopause
  • Unusual bleeding or vaginal discharge

Cervical Cancer

  • Abonormal vaginal bleeding, especially after intercourse
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Odor: strange/unpleasant
  • Pain: during sex or in pelvic area unrelated to sex or other activities

Uterine Sarcoma

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge especially after menopause
  • Pain or feeling of fullness in pelvic area or lower abdomen
  • Fibroids that grow quickly especially after menopause

Vulvar Cancer

  • Vulvar itching that does not improve
  • Change in skin color around vulva
  • Change in feel of your skin around vulva
  • Wart-like bumps or sores on vulva or clitoral area
  • Pain when urinating
  • Burning or bleeding and discharge not related to menstrual cycle
  • Enlarged glands in groin