Do you know the warning signs for ovarian cancer?
For a full year before Karene’s Ovarian Cancer diagnosis, she began experiencing abdominal discomfort. Being a nurse and a non-alarmist, she attributed it to indigestion or the flu.
When her symptoms persisted, she visited her internist who could not diagnose the problem. Although Karene listened to her body when it whispered that something was wrong, her physicians were unable to detect the initial or the metastasized cancer. In March 2007, Karene experienced excruciating pain. When the pain became intolerable, she was admitted to the hospital. Finally an abdominal laparoscopic examination was performed. Her diagnosis was Stage III C Ovarian Cancer. Prior to the diagnosis, she was extremely healthy – running daily, eating healthy food, and visiting her doctor for regular physical check-ups.
For 18 months Karene underwent numerous surgeries, two rounds of chemotherapy, horrendous side effects, and more suffering than any woman should face. Karene fought her battle until her last breath. As she returned home from the hospital for the last time in hospice care, her loved ones from all over the US and Canada surrounded her. At her passing, she was surrounded by her extended family who prayed, cried, and shared deep love with this amazing woman.
Karene’s family knew that the best way to begin healing was to follow her tremendous spirit of giving. The Karene O’Hare Ovarian Cancer Memorial Race was born during their soul searching as they continually posed the question “What would Karene want us to do?”
The Karene O’Hare Ovarian Cancer Memorial Race was established in 2009 and is funded through the annual Hare and Tortoise New Quarter Park Run/Walk. Since the first Race in 2009, over $142,000 has been donated to help fund the Ovarian Cancer Programs offered by the Lackey Clinic and the Olde Towne Medical & Dental Center to screen, treat and educate women about the disease. This mission responds to important community health needs for women of all ages and cannot succeed without the support of others. The Race is the only comprehensive effort on the peninsula that is dedicated to this mission.
In November 2016, a Memorial Endowment Fund at the Williamsburg Community Foundation was established. This is a permanent source of funds to achieve donation sustainability in the continuing efforts to build and strengthen the significant Ovarian Cancer health care that Lackey and Olde Towne provide for the Williamsburg community. The net income raised by the annual Race is added to the Endowment Fund and invested. A portion of the Endowment Fund investment income is donated to Lackey and Olde Towne annually to help support their Ovarian Cancer Programs.
Ovarian Cancer remains the deadliest of all gynecologic cancers and the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths among American women. Ovarian Cancer rates are the highest in women aged 55-64 and the median age at which women are diagnosed is 63. Approximately one in 58 American women will be diagnosed with the disease during their lifetime and approximately 15,000 women will die from the disease in the year 2019. The over-all 5-year survival rate of women diagnosed with the disease is approximately 44.6%, versus 89% for women diagnosed with breast cancer and 72% for women diagnosed with cervical cancer. It is a deadly disease.
If diagnosed early, when the cancer is confined to the ovary, the 5-year survival rate is over 90%. Unfortunately, due to the cancer’s non-specific symptoms and the lack of early detection tests, only 19% of all cases are found at stage 1. If caught in stage III or IV, the survival rate can be as low as 29%. According to the published data, the mortality rates for ovarian cancer have not improved in the last 30 years. Methods exist to reduce the risk but nothing exists to prevent the disease. Regrettably the exact causes of Ovarian Cancer are not known.
Detection is based on symptoms that are often subtle and can also indicate other problems. Women need to know their risk factors and the potential symptoms of the disease. Women also need to become more informed and as a result more enabled to be assertive in speaking to their health care providers. Here are some signs to look for:
- pelvic or abdominal pain
- difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
- pain with intercourse
- back pain
- menstrual irregularities
The 11th annual Karene O’Hare Ovarian Cancer Memorial fundraiser will be held on Saturday, September 7 at New Quarter Park. Race day registration begins at 7:45 am, a one-mile Fun Run/Walk at 8:30, and a 5K Run/Walk at 9:00. The entry fee is $30.00 if paid by August 30 and $35.00 after August 30 and on Race day.
The ability to continue funding Ovarian Cancer programs depends upon the generous support of donors, sponsors and Race entrants. Simply put, everyone is needed to help successfully fight this disease. Please join in this fight by becoming a donor or a sponsor or by signing up to participate in the Race. The fundraiser is conducted in partnership with the Williamsburg Community Foundation, which is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. Donations to the Foundation are deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Visit the web site at: www.hareandtortoiserunwalk.com for more information on Ovarian Cancer, on signing up for the Race and on how to become a donor or sponsor.
John O’Hare is a retired attorney who lives in Williamsburg and is the Co-Director for the Race. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.