In 1999, Frieda Hooper was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Frustrated with the lack of educational and supportive resources available, Hooper formed a support group for women with ovarian cancer in the Tampa Bay area, under the American Cancer Society. Rapidly growing in popularity, Ovacome started meeting independently of the American Cancer Society, eventually becoming an independent nonprofit organization in 2004.
Kris Walker, a board member, attended her first Ovacome support group meeting while in remission in 2003. Since resources were limited and “below the belt” cancers were not talked about publicly, this support group seemed a little uncomfortable for her. She decided this would probably be her one and only meeting, but just before exiting the door a woman, who had just started treatment, grabbed her arm and said “Please tell me you’ll be back, you are my light at the end of the tunnel.” Kris felt that she couldn’t possibly say no to this woman, and has been actively involved with the organization ever since.
To this day, Ovacome continues to function as an all volunteer nonprofit organization, providing educational resources and hosting a variety of events to raise awareness and offer support. The organization offers a 24 hour support hotline, free transportation for patients to and from their medical appointments and treatments, and monthly support groups. They also sponsor a short time with the Teal Taskers–a provider of in-home non-medical services and household chores and errands. This is an amazing program that serves as an extra pair of hands helping out patients and their caregivers. Patients can also apply for a grant from the Hope Fund to help take some of the financial burden off of their shoulders. For those patients just starting their treatment, Ovacome gifts them with a “Teal Bag of Hope” stocked full of comforting items, such as a pillow to support the abdomen post surgery.
One of their most talked about events, Teal Triumphs Over Ovarian Cancer, is held each September during ovarian cancer awareness month to celebrate and honor the women whose lives have been impacted by gynecological cancers. During the gala, guests enjoy an evening of fine dining, participate in a silent auction, and listen to guest speakers.
Over the years, Ovacome has enjoyed being a Partner Member of the Alliance, since it allows them to connect with other groups across the U.S. and keep up to date with what is happening on a national level. They actively participate in the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program and attend the Alliance’s annual conference. This year Ovacome achieved VIPM (Very Important Partner Member) status with the Alliance by sending one of the largest groups to the 2013 conference. After attending the conference, Kim Snyder, President of Ovacome, said “The volunteers who keep Ovacome running each have a reason they care about gynecologic cancer, whether they have survived it or know someone with the disease. Although our stories are unique, every person who attended the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Annual Conference can say that teal is personal to them, too.”