Pendleton, NY - September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and the numbers are staggering. 22,000 women will be diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer this year, and 15,000 will not survive. A Western New Yorker is fighting those statistics and offering hope to others through her extraordinary journey.
Kathleen Maxian is working to raise awareness about the disease. Her basement is full of boxes of supplies for care and hope bags for women diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Each bag will also include a message of support. Maxian explains, "That we are here, and there is hope for them. And that we understand what they're going through, and if they need us we're here."
It's a message Kathleen needed 4 years ago when she was shocked by her own diagnosis. After hearing her prognosis of a 20% chance of dying in 5 years, she was understandably afraid. She reacted by thinking, "I still have so much that I want to do that I haven't done yet in life."
She never imagined her fight would include being part of a Supreme Court case. Kathleen recalls, "It was very disturbing to me to find out my cancer could have been prevented."
Kathleen's sister Eileen was diagnosed at age 40 with breast cancer. Because Eileen was so young, she was tested for a gene mutation. The test came back negative, giving her family what turned out to be a false sense of security. It wasn't until after Kathleen was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer that Eileen had a second test that came back positive. She had to wait because she did not meet the critieria for that supplemental test until after Kathleen's diagnosis. One company set that criteria for testing because it held a patent on the gene. If Kathleen had known about the genetic link, she could have had preventative surgery. Kathleen says, "I was angry, and along with that anger was my concern that if this happened to me, it could happen to someone else." In June, the Supreme Court ruled that human genes can not be patented.
Kathleen's fight continues by advocating for women to learn the risks and symptoms.
The risks include; Over age 55, History of Breast, Uterine, Colon or Rectal Cancer, Family History of Breast Cancer before Age 50 or Ovarian Cancer at Any Age, Hormone Replacement Therapy, Never Had Children, Difficulty Getting Pregnant, History of Endometriosis
The symptoms include; Bloating, Abdominal Pain or Discomfort, Frequent or Urgent Urination, Feeling Full When Eating Quickly
Kathleen recommends if you have two of these risk factors to go to a high risk clinic. There is one at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. She also recommends getting the opinion of a gynecologic oncologist before surgery.
Kathleen also co-founded the Western New York Ovarian Cancer Project with Candace Carberry so women with Ovarian Cancer have a place to share their story.
On Friday, September 6, "The Journey" Candlelight Ceremony is planned in Niagara Falls. This event allows survivors, family and friends to honor someone who has passed from Ovarian Cancer. Niagara Falls will be lit teal. Participants are encouraged to bring a flashlight for the event that starts at 8 p.m. Here's a special link for directions.
More events are planned throughout the month and volunteers are always welcome by the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project.