Women's Health

How One Woman Used Her Birthday to Raise Awareness for Ovarian Cancer

How One Woman Used Her Birthday to Raise Awareness for Ovarian Cancer

On September 10, 2017 the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope took place at Royal Roads University in Colwood, England. One woman made it her mission to gain support for the cause on her birthday. Kathleen Ward of Victoria shared her own personal story in the hopes that she would get more residents to participate in the walk.

For her 60th birthday Kathleen asked people to make a $60 donation to support the walk. Ward was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August of 2015. Despite being an active walker, and as she describes herself a “granola eating, yoga doing, hiking, and mountain biking woman,” she would have to battle the deadliest gynecological disease. Her move to raise money and awareness for a disease that has personally impacted her shows an immense amount of courage, caring, and determination. Kathleen is passionate about helping others with ovarian cancer feel supported and have hop for a cure.

As she shares her personal story she tells others how shocked she was when she was diagnosed. She told them that “cancer was not a thing that was going to happen to me.” As a part of her aggressive treatment she had a hysterectomy and endured 18 rounds of chemotherapy, a treatment that makes patients unfathomably sick and exhausted. Despite all of this, she continued walking. Every day, despite how bad she might be feeling, she walked. Being a strong believer in the benefits of the outdoors for one’s physical and mental health, it made sense that she would continue this activity. Maintaining some aspects of her lifestyle prior to her diagnosis would not only help her maintain her overall health, but would also help her keep some control over her life and have a healthy outlet. Getting outside and exercising, even if it is as simple as walking, can make your daily life a little bit better.

Life threatening illnesses have a way of renewing the urge to live fully for many people. When Ward went into remission in 2016, she and her husband set out to tick off items on their bucket lists. They began by purchasing an RV, canoeing the Yukon River, and trekking 53 km along the Chilkoot Trail that extends through the Coast Mountains between Dyea, Alaska and Bennett British Columbia. As fate would have it, they met some medical students who were studying immunology and ovarian cancer along the way. In a moving discussion, the students told Ward that they had never met anyone with ovarian cancer, and she informed them that she had never met anyone studying it. She encouraged them to head back to school and study so that they might be prepared should they need to save her life someday.

Last winter Ward and her husband travelled to the Okanagan Valley. There they engaged in 1,000 km of cross-country skiing. No easy feat for the healthiest and strongest individual. Ward describes the benefits of these trips. “The endorphins from the fresh air and exercising with friends made me feel much better. I started to hope that the cancer had been nothing more than a speed bump in my life.”

In March, doctors informed Ward that the cancer had metastasized. It was now in her liver and lungs. Ward was devastated. She soon heard of the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope. This was the perfect event for an avid walker and lover of the outdoors such as herself to get involved in. She decided to challenge herself to help others. She formed a Walk of Hope Team names Kathleen’s $60 for 60 with the goal of raising $10,000. Though it was tough, she disseminated her story and was determined to do something positive with her diagnosis. She sent an e-mail to her friends and family letting them know about her plan. She achieved her fundraising goal before the month even ended.

There are ways you can get involved, too

There’s no need to limit yourself to one month when you can raise awareness and support the battle against ovarian cancer year-round.

The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) has an annual walk/run to raise awareness and support people who have been affected by ovarian cancer. The events that they hold through their various chapters are designed to raise awareness, honor those who have been affected, and raise money to support advancement in the areas of finding a cure providing care for patients. Since 1998, 113,961 people have participated in the event either through volunteering, athletic contribution, or another method. If you are a marathon runner, you can join their marathon team to help raise money and show your support during your training period and the race. NOCC also has other events that are put on by their chapters in different locations.

If you like to think of yourself as a natural hostess, then host a fundraiser! This can be a great way to bring friends, families, and even strangers together to support a good cause. Hosting can be done by an individual, school, community organization, or business, so get out there and talk to your boss about hosting! You can make it whatever you want so that you know your guest and you will have a good time. Many people choose to use sporting events as a medium for an event. If you like to cook you can host bake sales, or a dinner at your house where the proceeds go to supporting ovarian cancer. Getting your entire community involved through a talent show, car wash, or something similar, can have an impact on raising awareness with a larger group of people, and be a great way to bring together the community. NOCC has information on how you can get started with hosting your fundraiser.

Is your birthday coming up? Facebook now has a handy feature that can help you use your birthday as a platform for raising money for causes you care about. Facebook now prompts users in the weeks leading up to their birthday to “donate” their birthday to their favorite charity. This is a great way to meet massive amounts of people. Unlike in our day to day lives, where we really only interact with people whom we know personally or professionally, Facebook has us in contact with many individuals. Some of these people we may have only known once, but perhaps they are interested in helping support the cause that you are passionate about. How many of us get Facebook messages on our birthday from people whom we don’t actually know? Scott Harrison, the famous club promoter and CEO of “charity:water” used his 31st birthday party by asking guest to pay $20 entrance fee. He then took this money and donated it to a refugee camp in Uganda. He does advise people that donating directly to a cause is more effective, but using the Facebook birthday feature is not a bad idea either. What if those “Happy Birthdays” were donations?