Congratulations to These Ovarian Cancer Heroes!
The inaugural Ovarian Cancer Heroes is a program that recognizes remarkable individuals who are committed to providing better care to patients and their families on a daily basis. This year, on March 23rd, the inaugural Ovarian Cancer Heroes Gala was held in New Orleans and celebrated 4 outstanding individuals in their dedication to the cancer community.
Patrick Dempsey – actor, cancer advocate, and Breakaway from Cancer Ambassador – was the keynote speaker at the Gala, which was attended by over 150 healthcare professionals, advocates, patients and their loved ones. His speech, which highlighted the importance of compassion, empathy, and collaboration, captivated the attention of the entire audience. “It is such a tremendous honor to be in this room with real doctors,” he joked, having played a neurosurgeon by the name of Derek Shepherd on the hit TV show ‘Grey’s Anatomy’.
Dempsey’s speech took a more serious turn when he began sharing his mother’s ovarian cancer story. “It was devastating. It was so hard to process what that means and what can we do. In 1997, it wasn’t like we had a lot of time and we didn’t think we were going to have her for very long. Ultimately, she lived 17 years,” he said. Dempsey stressed that he was fortunate enough to have the time to talk to his mother, clearing everything that needed to be said and getting closure before she passed away in 2014. “We were understanding what was happening. That doesn’t always happen. And that’s unfortunate because this disease is so vicious,” he said.
His mother’s diagnosis was the ultimate reason why he and his sisters established the Dempsey Center, located in Lewiston, Maine. Since 2008, the center has been providing free education, cancer support, and integrative medicine services to individuals affected by the disease. Such services include grief programs, support groups, stress management, gentle yoga, as well as knitting and nutrition education classes. “We’re doing so much great work at the center because of the volunteers and survivors. To see what individuals can do with passion. They are driven, and how many people they affect along the way is phenomenal. That’s the real success,” said Dempsey.
Driving research and awareness in the ovarian cancer community
At the gala, four individuals – a nurse navigator, a physician, and two patient-turned advocates – were awarded for their contributions to increasing awareness and advancing research and education for ovarian cancer. “To have the opportunity to recognize the advocates in the cancer field is such a wonderful opportunity for me. I have seen people in the cancer world quit their jobs and commit to something where there wasn’t any pay, but the pay for them was that they didn’t have to let someone else go through what they had been through,” said Kathy LaTour, co-founder of CURE.