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Help beat ovarian cancer with the 11th Annual Women’s Health Walk/Run

Posted By Karen Young On September 3, 2009 @ 11:41 pm In News,spotlight,Stories | 1 Comment

aniBY ANI OKKASIAN

“My story is not a pretty story,” explains a comforting raspy voice. “My story is not a normal story.” Gayle McKenna has been a cancer survivor for 21 years now but the original outcome was presumed grim. “Twenty one years ago, we didn’t have a lot of technology,” she explains. “I was misdiagnosed for six months.” McKenna knew something wasn’t right. “If your doctor is telling you you’re okay but you know something is wrong – go get another opinion,” she stresses. “I got six opinions and by the sixth one, they told me I had ovarian cancer.”

That day, McKenna became one of the 24,000 women annually diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but after almost a year of intensive treatment she became one of the 14,000 who lived to tell about it.

mmmOvarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California volunteer committee:  (front l-r)Lorie Lieberman, Gayle McKenna,(back l-r) Barbara Ferreria,Cindy Deaver, Pauline Babbini,Cindy Mayberry, Barbara Javitz

Ten years ago McKenna made the decision to share her story with a wider audience by creating the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California when she realized the lack of information, and misinformation, about the disease among women and even their physicians.

“My goal is to educate women,” she explains. “If detected early and treated properly, more than 95% of women will survive.”

But early detection is no easy task with a disease that is not routinely discovered with a pap smear and has fairly common symptoms which makes it all too easy to misdiagnose.

“Women need to go to a gynecologist because treatment for this disease is such a specific field,” says McKenna. “The general physicians often overlook the symptoms.”

With her organization’s countless health fairs, lectures and multi-media broadcasts to increase awareness, McKenna and her team of 75 volunteers also make sure to shed light on the CA 125 blood test. “It is very important that women know to ask for this test,” McKenna explains of the procedure that solely looks for cancerous cells. Along with the blood test and annual vaginal/rectal pelvic exams or trans-vaginal ultrasound women can take a proactive role in early detection.

The entire family can participate, including younger kids in the KiddyK.

The entire family can participate in the Walk/Run on September 13, including younger kids in the KiddyK.

McKenna plans to share all this information at the health expo during 11th Annual Women’s Health Walk/Run for Awareness & Hope on Sunday, September 13 at the CBS studios in Studio City where the public (men, women and kids) can participate in a 3k/5k walk/run, 8k run or a KiddieK.

But McKenna is not planning on doing this for long, “What’s my long term goal?” she asks herself.  “I envision that we don’t have to do this anymore. I envision finding a cure.”

To date, the organization has donated over half a million dollars for ovarian cancer research hoping they will see that day.

For more information about Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California and how to support their 11th Annual Women’s Health Walk/Run for Awareness & Hope on September 13, visit: http://www.ovariancancercalifornia.com/about.shtml

Ani Okkasian is the Valley Field Deputy for LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan. She is also a freelance writer and photographer. She has a  degree in Communications from Woodbury University.

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