Robin Cohen was working as an oncology nurse when one of her favorite patients, Sandy Rollman, passed away at age 33 from ovarian cancer. Robin’s work with Sandy and Sandy’s sister Adriana Way made her realize how few resources were available to women with this disease.
“It was hard to even find a survivor for her to talk to,” Robin recalls. While searching for support services in and around Philadelphia “I realized what wasn’t there.”
At an Ovarian Cancer National Alliance conference in September 2001, Robin attended a session on starting an organization at the local level. She went home and “did everything they said to do.”
Today, the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation (SROCF) works to bring ovarian cancer to the forefront of the public’s mind. An annual run/walk brought in 2,500 participants last year; they hope to double that number at this year’s event, scheduled for April 23. The organization participates in an annual dragon boat race in September, and a Phillies game supporting ovarian cancer awareness drew 1,300 attendees in 2010. Since its founding, SROCF has raised more than $1.5 million for ovarian cancer research.
Another way that SROCF spread the word about ovarian cancer is through a series of humorous skits called “Doctor You.” Ovarian cancer survivors star in the skits, which are performed in businesses and hospitals and encourage women to be their own health advocates. Using ovarian cancer as an example also teaches the audience about the signs and symptoms of the disease.
One particular highlight from the past decade was the completion of a mural honoring women with ovarian cancer in 2005—the first of its kind in the nation. It took SROCF four years of effort, but a 69-foot wall now promotes awareness of the disease.
Today, Robin describes the relationship between SROCF and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance as “a mother-daughter relationship. They helped us get started. Now that we’re settled, I can go back to national for advice. I don’t need to call as often, but I know that I can.”
“When we started, we said if we helped one person, it would be worth it,” Robin recalls. Ten years later, the organization that started on her living room floor is a respected resource that touches thousands of lives.