Saturday, May 5, 2012 was the first time that I have ever participated in a walk, run, jump, etc. for any cause. Fellow journalist, Sharon Sultan Cutler, I participated along with more than 3,000 people in the NOCC (National Ovarian Cancer Coalition) 15th Annual Walk To Break the Silence on ovarian cancer in memory of our mothers who succumed to ovarian cancer. An article on my Mother, Ruth Davis, and her struggle can be seen at (article). This disease devastated our family and the walk was a opportunity to raise funds for a cause that I think is very important and also to connect with others who have had experiences with this disease. "The mission of the NOCC is to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The Coalition is committed to improving the survival rate and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer." The day was inspiring and uplifting.
When I decided to participate in the walk, I signed up online. In addition to an easy sign up, the website was structured so that it was very easy for anyone who chose to financially support me to do that and many did. More people than I could imagine made contributions.
No matter that the day was grey and misty. At Diversey Harbor in Lincoln Park, everything was well organized and things seemed to go smoothly. Registration was fast and efficient and activities at the various booths seemed well planned. One booth had resources related to treatment of cancer, another had gifts available, another, was a gathering place for volunteers and so on. There was a stage with ongoing live music and lots and lots of people. Walking in teams is strongly encouraged and groups could be seen with special posters remembering or honoring a special woman, special leis colored paper Hawiian style leis and other designations. The groups were relatives, friends, co-workers and others.
There was quite a bit of time between registration and the start of the walk to wandering and explore activities and displays, and other people in attendance. Very near to where we were standing there was a stroller that seemed to hold triplets. Talking with the parents of the children we learned that Jennifer, the Mom, had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 19. She was treated at the University of Chicago. She never thought she would be able to have children and now several years later she has a 2 ½ year old and two 1 ½ year old children. We asked how she is doing and she said with a full time job as a 911 dispatcher and three children within a year she is tired… and grateful.
I could not help but notice Rodney. He had a wonderful tattoo in memory of Debz. He had a great get up and said he had driven in from El Paso, Illinois about an hour and a half away to attend this event.
Before the walk began the MC, ABC7's Stacey Baca who said she knew little about this disease before her sister, survivor, Lynn Baca was diagnosed. Lynn who is a nine-year survivor shared her story with us. She explained that she was having problems with her menstrual cycles and discomfort and was very tired. The doctor found no problems so she decided a second opinion was needed. The second doctor attributed her problems to working too hard and not eating or sleeping well. But she knew these weren’t the reasons because she had other times that were pressure and her cycle did not stop. She asked the doctor to please check further. And further exploration revealed an ovarian cyst, ovarian cancer. When Lynn's mother heard the news she was angry but the newly diagnosed paitent told her Mother she could not be angry because she needed her mother’s help. After testing and diagnostic procedures were done, she had major abdominal surgery in 2003. Along the way to survival many of the things she planned to do with her life changed so she adjusted her plans and made new friends. She takes each day at a time and is going on ten years as a survivor.
In their solid teal shirts, the survivors were very noticeable, while walkers had white backgrounds with teal designs and volunteers had green backgrounds with teal designs. To me, the most dramatic moment of the day was when all of the survivors were called to the stage for a photo. The group overflowed the stage. They looked so good. A woman in the crowd in front of me commented that the group last year was so large that the stage collapsed. (She didn’t say anyone was hurt.)
As people were gathering for a walk I noticed three men in wigs and when I spoke with them they said they were part of Team Sandra along with four women. Sandra, their friend, lives in Alaska.
And then the walk began and we found ourselves in the midst of a huge crowd, not able to see the end of the line in front or back. It felt secure to be in the middle of such a large, supportive group. People walked and talked sharing experiences, feelings and ideas. And before long we returned to the starting point.
Chicago has the largest NOCC membership in the country and is the first groupto walk in May. Nothern VA walk is this Saturday on May 12th. Across the country most NOCC members walk in September, which is Ovarian Cancer Month. However, on Friday, September 21, 2012 at 6:30 at the Metropolitan Club,there will be a Teal Lights Celebration & Fundraiser when Chicago lights up in teal. For more information go to: www.ovarian.org/IL
Sharon knew about one of the groups at the resource booth, a wonderful organization called Imerman Angels which provides: One-on-One Cancer Support: Connecting Cancer Fighters, Survivors and Caregivers.
They can be reached at: 312.274.5529 or [email protected]
More information at: www.imermanangels.org.
More information on NOCC: www.ovarian.org
Photos: B. Keer