Stephanie’s Angels Promote Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Research

Keisha Sapp and her close friends created Stephanie’s Angels Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day on Saturday, July 12, which had cancer awareness in a variety of locations in Northern New Jersey. Moved into action by the death of her friend Stephanie Wilkins from Ovarian Cancer and her participation in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program, Sapp also founded Walk and Remember, a 5k fundraising walk supporting Ovarian cancer research and awareness. Sapp was also invited to write an article in the July 11 Newark Star-Ledger newspaper telling both Stephanie’s story and giving information about her activism. The story appears here.

Friends Tell Women about Ovarian Cancer Risks after Loved one’s Death

by Keisha Sapp

Stephanie Wilkins was one of the most proactive people I knew when it came to her health. She saw her physicians regularly. She had annual exams. If she noticed something “wasn’t right” she would let her medical professionals know right away. So it was shocking that a woman so conscientious about her health was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer only months before she passed away on April 2, 2008.

I met Stephanie over a decade ago. She’s the mother of my close friend, Corey Wilkins. Stephanie was different from the rest of my friend’s parents. She was the “cool mom”. As I got to know her, she became more of a friend to me, rather than just my “friend’s mom”. She was so easy and fun to talk to. She was vibrant and so full of life, and then she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Everything changed.

Since Stephanie’s death, I’ve asked myself over and over, “Why didn’t anyone find this sooner?” As I began researching the disease, I learned that many stories ended the way Stephanie’s did. I read story after story about women who had suspicious symptoms for months, even years, and then were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in stage three or four of the disease when it was too late. Corey told me his mom had been feeling “under the weather for over a year,” making countless trips to the emergency room. Again I wondered: why didn’t anyone find this sooner?

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the deadliest of all gynecological cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates in 2008, around 22,000 women will be diagnosed and 15,000 of them will die from the disease. About 75 percent of women are diagnosed in the late stages, according to the American Cancer Society.

Some early warning signs of the disease can be bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, unexplained weight loss or gain, or urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency). Because these symptoms may not seem usual, or mimic other ailments, women quite often dismiss them, and doctors misdiagnose them. A complete list of symptoms, and information on early detection and prevention, are available on the American Cancer Society website.

Days after Stephanie’s death, I began a leadership program, and one of the requirements was to complete a community project. I knew immediately what my cause would be: helping to save other women’s lives by giving them information about this disease and their options. To this end, and to honor Stephanie’s memory, my closest friends and I have created two events.

First, we will be hosting the Stephanie’s Angels Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day on Saturday, July 12. From 11am to 3:30 pm we will have ovarian cancer information booths at a variety of locations.

We will also be providing an opportunity to register in our second event entitled Walk and Remember. The 5K walk will be on September 6, 2008 at Branch Brook Park in Newark, NJ. Proceeds from the walk will go to the Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer. The Lynne Cohen Foundation is a national nonprofit organization celebrating 10 years of research and preventative care for women’s cancers. For more information about the foundation, visit their website.

For more information about Walk and Remember and any of our upcoming events, please call 888-804-3462.

Keisha Sapp is a project coordinator based in Union, NJ. She also has previously worked in the fashion and music industries. In 2008, as a participant in Landmark Education’s Self Expression and Leadership Program, she ventured into charitable fundraising by founding Walk and Remember, an event supporting ovarian cancer research and awareness. Here is the original link to the Star-Ledger story.

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It’s good to hear that you’re involved in teaching people about getting an early diagnosis. I felt worse and worse for many years before getting my Stage 4 diagnosis in June of ’07. I underwent surgery at UCLA on Aug 1 of ’07, and had gone markedly downhill in those last two months. Thanks to the team of young Drs. and their Prof., Robin Farias Eisner, I’m still clean a year later. I feel better than I have since, I don’t know, maybe 2000? I’d been going to all types of doctors all that time, trying to find out what was wrong. I finally got a new GP, Dr. Robt. Gong here in Cambria, CA, and he suggested an abdominal CT scan. Girls, if you’re wondering, go get yourself one of those. They couldn’t find it with pap smears, blood tests, nothing. Looking at that CT scan photo, there it was. By then, it was a foot and a half long, including the ovaries and the uteris.
Don’t sit around and wait for somebody to figure it out, like I did. Request a CT scan if you’re feeling tired and bloaty for over a few months. There are new methods for discovering this cancer coming along all the time, like the CA-125 blood test. It’s not always correct, but it’s a tip to keep looking.
Doctors don’t know everything, and they’re busy people. Ovarian cancer sneaks up on us. It hits most often during or after menopause. So, if you’re in that category, get aggressive. If I’d given up, I wouldn’t be here now. And, we all know how important it is to Be Here Now!

Hugs to all, Linda

J.C. says:

Thank you for your advise Linda..
I am confused if the symptoms show at menopausal age..I am only 23 and I feel something wrong with my body…

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