Laura Stecher founded the Ovarian Cancer Orange County Alliance (OCOCA) in 2003 with friends from her support group. Today, she is a ten-year survivor—and one of only three surviving from their original group of eight. Whenever Laura gets burned out from her work on ovarian cancer, something happens to reenergize her. “I feel like those five women are still with me, inspiring me,” she says.
OCOCA focuses its efforts on education and outreach. Volunteers give presentations through the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance’s Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives SM program, as well as a speaker’s bureau that visits women’s groups in the area. OCOCA’s talks about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer get a lot of positive feedback from groups like the Philanthropic Educational Organizations, the Soroptomists of Laguna Beach and the Anaheim Hill Women’s Club. In addition, OCOCA distributes about 50,000 symptom cards each year through local nail salons, grocery stores and doctor’s offices.
Educating women about the symptoms of ovarian cancer is one of the most rewarding aspects of Laura’s work with OCOCA. “I know I’m doing something worthwhile when I get a call from a woman who says, ‘I picked up one of your symptom cards and went to my doctor. I was diagnosed early. You saved my life.’”
Beyond education and outreach, OCOCA does numerous special events and projects. Each September, the organization gives comfort bags to about 250 Orange County women currently in treatment for ovarian cancer. Two big annual fundraisers are a golf tournament in August and a poker run for owners of motorcycles, hot rods and classic cars. Laura reports that the Rods and Hogs Poker Run is “Not only fun, it reaches a completely different audience than our speaker’s bureau does.”
Because California covers such a large area, OCOCA work closely with partners in other parts of the state, like the Los Angeles-based Ovarian Cancer Coalition of Greater California. Several years ago, these close relationships helped form the California Ovarian Cancer Awareness Project, which brings local organizations together to work on awareness, education and policy.