Group supports those affected by ovarian cancerWritten by Kathryn Milstein | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Deb Rump said the smell of fresh-baked cookies, memories of Christmas Eve and photos from Disney World haunt her.
Three years ago, Rump lost her sister, Georgia Meyers — the cookie baker, holiday eve host and generous aunt to Rump’s two daughters — to ovarian cancer.
Rump is angry. She is angry there are no screening tests. She is angry there are limited treatment options. But mostly, she is angry about her sister’s death.
“Had there been a screening test,” she wrote in an email, “she would have had it. She would still be alive. Instead, we face this sad anniversary.”
Rump said she finds solace in being a member of the Ovarian Cancer Connection (OCC), a Toledo-based organization of women dedicated to raising awareness and educating the community about the deadly disease.
Meyers was one of the roughly 22,000 women diagnosed every year with ovarian cancer. She was also one of the about 15,000 women who lose their fight with ovarian cancer every year, according to the American Cancer Society.
Gini Steinke, president and co-founder of OCC, said the organization works with about 15 women at a time to organize yearly events, which include a walk, a golf outing, and a survivors tea and luncheon.
The organization, which used to be the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Northwest Ohio and Southwest Michigan, split from the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to keep money and the ability to name events after the departed.
The money goes toward organizing the annual events and research for ovarian cancer.
“We need a reliable screening test,” Steinke said, “because we already have [ovarian cancer], but we don’t want our daughters or granddaughters or whoever to get sick.”
Steinke said most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are already in Stage 3 or 4, which are the late stages of the disease where little can be done to save a life. The lifespan of a woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer at this stage is typically between a few days and a few years.
Steinke said the symptoms of the disease could be mistaken as premenstrual syndrome, including bloating, abdominal pain, difficulty eating and urinary symptoms. Other symptoms can include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, constipation or menstrual irregularities.
“If you’re not being treated for anything,” Steinke said of prolonged symptoms, “and your doctor doesn’t care, get a second opinion. Get a third opinion.”
OCC hosts two annual fundraisers. Steinke said she organizes a cancer walk named after local women who have died of ovarian cancer. The 2011 walk is in memory of Ellen Jackson and will take place Sept. 17 at the University of Toledo Medical Center. Steinke said about 1,500 people are expected.
The other event is the annual Karen Creque Memorial Golf Outing which began after group member and golf-enthusiast Karen Creque lost her seven-year fight against ovarian cancer.
Amy Stone, Creque’s daughter, said her mother’s physician had downplayed her symptoms.
“She was told that she was probably ‘just’ going through menopause,” she said, “and that he would see her in six months rather than waiting the full year.”
Six weeks later, Creque was back at her physician’s office with quickly progressing symptoms. She had surgery the following day.
“No matter what was happening with her,” Stone said, “she continued to raise awareness about this disease by sharing her story and being there for others.”
Angie Rumer, one of the founders of OCC, said her mother Bonnie Nellett faced her cancer with “grace, courage and dignity.”
Nellett went through a series of doctor visits and tests because there was a nagging feeling something was wrong before she was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She died six days after Rumer’s wedding, which was planned in three-and-a-half weeks to include her.
Joan Drzewiecki thought the common cold caused her symptoms. A little extra weight, fatigue and lack of appetite didn’t bother her until her symptoms prevented her from drinking soup or water for an entire weekend. Exploratory surgery found Stage 1 ovarian cancer.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” she said. “I try not to dwell on this, but it’s on my mind — not if the doctor will find something, but what will he find.”
Drzewiecki’s cancer may recur, but she said she was glad they found it through surgery since screening tests showed her healthy.
Without reliable screening, Deb Rump has no way of knowing if her daughters, a 20-year-old and a 22-year-old, will have ovarian cancer. Rump’s mother-in-law, like her sister, died of ovarian cancer. Rump places “symptoms cards” in women’s bathrooms.
“I lost two women that I loved a great deal, and risk losing my two daughters,” Rump wrote. “It isn’t much, but if I can save one woman then I will have honored Georgia’s memory.”