Editor’s note: This article is dedicated to the reporter’s sister, Peggy King Foote.
Ovarian is the deadliest gynecologic cancer that ranks fifth in cancer deaths of women. Residents gathered Friday evening for the annual Teal Charity Auction, hosted by the Sue DiNapoli Ovarian Cancer Society (SDOCS). Funds raised go to support those battling not just ovarian cancer, but all seven gynecologic cancers.
In 1999, Sue DiNapoli was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she lost her battle to it in 2005. According to her daughter, Susan DiNapoli, Sue felt isolated in her cancer journey, and she developed an awareness of the financial challenges and lack of support that can come with a cancer battle.
“We have really changed the climate of this community. We serve all women with all gynecologic cancers, not just ovarian,” Susan said. The mission of SDOCS, which became a nonprofit in 2014, is to support women financially (through Sue’s Gift Financial Aid Program), and emotionally as they journey through gynecologic cancer.
At the Teal Charity Auction, cancer survivors generously shared their range of experiences with symptoms and diagnosis. The pervasive messages for women are to be aware of their own bodies, be persistent when something doesn’t feel right, challenge medical providers when questions go unanswered, and seek support.
Ovarian cancer is described as the “silent killer,” because the symptoms can be non-existent or so subtle that they are mistaken for things like normal aging, indigestion or fatigue. Too often, ovarian cancer is misdiagnosed or even dismissed due to difficulty with diagnosis. Tenuous symptoms can include incontinence, trouble breathing, weight gain or loss, and insomnia. Survivor Cheri Corbitt advised women to be in tune with their bodies and not dismiss anything out of the ordinary.
BEAT is an acronym for recognizing ovarian cancer symptoms: Bloating (persistent), Eating less and feeling fuller, Abdominal pain, and Trouble with the bladder. The only way to definitively diagnose ovarian cancer is through a transvaginal ultrasound, coupled with a complete pelvic exam, and CA-125 blood test. Regular pap smears diagnose cervical cancer, but not ovarian cancer.
SDOCS is in the process of developing Woman to Woman, a peer-to-peer support program for women newly diagnosed with gynecologic cancer. Cancer patients will be paired with trained survivor-volunteers who will provide one-on-one emotional support, mentoring, education, and promotion of self-advocacy. The focus will also be on developing coping strategies, leaning to set boundaries and overcoming challenges, all important parts of the journey from diagnosis through treatment.
Survivors provide solid advice to friends and family for being helpful and supportive. Camaraderie is key, as cancer can isolating. It is helpful for supporters to listen or share stories of hope and encouragement. Other suggestions, in addition to medical treatment, include meditation and mindfulness, eating a balanced diet, managing stress, accepting help when offered, and giving back to others.
Survivors are advised to follow up with genetic testing to alert family members, including sisters and daughters, of potential risk factors. This allows family and the medical community to be diligent when monitoring the health of female relatives.
The Teal Charity Auction relied on a variety of very generous donations. No admission fee was charged to a crowd of around 200. Attendees enjoyed beer supplied by Rocky Mountain Brewing, wine from Cheers Liquor Mart, and pulled pork and brats from Blazin’ Butts and Smokin’ Thighs BBQ. Auction donors supplied gift baskets, event tickets, artwork and crafts, baked goods, and jewelry for the silent and live auctions. The staff at Ross Auction hosted an energetic live auction led by Ross co-owner and auctioneer Thomas Langeland, who along with other staff, egged the crowd on to higher and higher bids to benefit SDOCS.