On Thursday, August 20th, I attended an event in New York City sponsored by Seventh Generation about the importance of organic feminine care and the need to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. Elizabeth Howard, CEO of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, joined gynecological oncologist Dr. Molly Brewer in discussing their dedication to finding a method of early detection and ultimately, a cure for the disease that is the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers in the US. Some 22,000 women are diagnosed with the disease each year.
During the conference, two women spoke about their experiences with ovarian cancer. Melissa Gellman Weiss, vice president of global communications for Link Theory Holdings, the owner of fashion brands Helmut Lang and Theory, and Jenn Sommermann, an educator and muscular therapist who has made it her goal to raise $100,000 for the OCRF by competing in triathlons in all fifty states by the time she turns 50, had important stories to tell. Both are motivated, intelligent, and upbeat women who knew little about ovarian cancer. Their path to diagnosis was one that many women experience. Both women began to notice swelling in their abdominal regions, increased frequency of urination, and a variety of other symptoms that doctor after doctor dismissed as "nothing wrong." One woman was told her symptoms were a sign of aging; the other was told that she might be pregnant. But both women knew that something was amiss. By listening to their bodies, each was able to find a gynecological oncologist to diagnose and treat them. At 29 years old, Melissa's Stage 1 cancer was ruled to be in remission. Soon after, she became pregnant with a baby girl. After three surgeries and six months of chemotherapy, 42-year-old Jenn beat her Stage 3 cancer, and four weeks after finishing treatment, competed in the NYC Nautica Triathlon.
These inspiring stories brought tears to the eyes of the women in the room. They also became a call to action: We must listen to our bodies, question our doctors when a diagnosis doesn't feel right, educate ourselves and the women around us, and help raise awareness of a disease that is often called a silent killer.
Because we still know so little about ovarian cancer, funding for education and research is key. Visit www.ocrf.org for more information about ovarian cancer, and to donate money to finding a cure. On Sept. 1, go to www.seventhgeneration.com/lets-talk-period to learn about a new program Seventh Generation is sponsoring to raise money for OCRF.