“Chains of Hope” - Raising Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness


The Teal Tree at Brookfield Zoo is a unique approach to decorating trees for Christmas.  This is a creative approach to heightening awareness about ovarian cancer.  The messages hanging on the trees are inspirational and educational.

These messages are touching, and could also be life-saving:

  •  “Take Early Action and LIVE”
  •  “I pray that women in the future will not reach Stage IV like I did before being diagnosed.”
  •  “My prayer is for an early detection method and a cure for this beastly disease.”
  •  “Fight like a girl and hope for a cure!”


These phrases and more are inscribed on the colorful paper “Chains of Hope” decorating the first Teal Tree sponsored by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC)’s Illinois Chapter at Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic celebration. Teal is the color of Ovarian Cancer symptom awareness.


“There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. Until there’s a test, it is vital that its signs and symptoms are recognized by women, their families, friends and the medical community,” explains Sandra Cord, Chapter Coordinator for the Illinois Chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.


Symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, and feeling the need to urinate urgently or often. Signs can also include fatigue, upset stomach, heartburn, back pain, constipation and menstrual changes.  These symptoms are very common, but if they persist for two weeks or longer, women are urged to talk to a gynecologic oncologist as soon as possible.


“All women are at risk of developing this disease,” says Karen Young, NOCC Illinois Chapter Coordinator. “Symptoms can be very vague, but they will increase over time.  Early detection increases survival rates.”


This year, 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed, and over 15,000 women will die of the disease. More than 80 percent of all women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are diagnosed at Stage III or higher, where the five-year survival rate can be as low as 30 percent. One of every 71 women will be eventually diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Women can be diagnosed at any age, with some cases of ovarian cancer seen in girls as young as six years old.


Ovarian cancer survivors and awareness supporters have been writing messages for the tree since last May. Hand-written thoughts were collected at the organization’s annual Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer® and additional messages were submitted through the NOCC Illinois Facebook page.  The links were laminated and fashioned into chains by project chairmen Barb Reigler and Donna Wilson, NOCC volunteers from Downers Grove.  Other decorations include information on the symptoms of ovarian cancer.


Messages include words of hope for loved ones fighting ovarian cancer, hope for an early detection test and a cure for the disease, and tributes in memory of those who lost to their battle with ovarian cancer.  Many writers expressed the hope that more people will recognize the symptoms and know to Take Early Action & Live (TEAL).

The NOCC’s tree is on display next to the Roosevelt Fountain at Brookfield Zoo through December 31, 2014. It will be lit as part of the Zoo’s Holiday Magic event, held during weekend evenings in December. 


“We encourage everyone to go to Brookfield Zoo and take a selfie next to the NOCC tree. Share your photo at #tealyourtradition. Remember to share the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Sharing your awareness can save the life of someone you love,” urges Cord.


For information on this year’s Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic event, please visit the Brookfield Zoo website.


For more information about the NOCC tree or the NOCC Illinois Chapter, please call 312.226.9410.


About The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition:


Since its inception in 1995, The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) has been committed to raising awareness, promoting education, and funding research in support of women, families, and communities touched by ovarian cancer.  Through its more than 20 chapter offices nationwide, NOCC is well established as an important advocate for patients and families struggling with this insidious disease. NOCC remains steadfast in its mission to save lives by fighting tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer, and to improve the quality of life for survivors. For more information, please visit the NOCC website.


Photos:  Courtesy of Sandra Cord



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