The NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Foundation is named for two sisters who both died from ovarian cancer. Executive Director Jodie Shagrin Kavensky, one of Norma’s daughters, recalls that her mother attended a women’s cancer luncheon a few months before she passed away. “They never talked about ovarian cancer. As she was dying, my mother said, ‘Jodie, you have to do something about this.’”
Though Norma passed away in 2008, the organization that honors her really took off in 2011. A local newscaster had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and wanted to raise money for research. When Jodie reached out to help her they started a fundraiser called “Rings for Research.” Funds raised through the sale of silicone rings and bracelets are donated to ovarian cancer research.
The Foundation also works diligently to raise awareness and promote early detection of ovarian cancer through a variety of free programs. Their BEAT the Big O campaign offers free cards detailing the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which women can place on mirrors in restrooms and are also distributed through retail shops and medical offices catering to women. Each September, similar information is provided on window decals that businesses display. In the last three years, they have given away more than 100,000 BEAT cards, 2,000 TEALTag window clings and 4,000 bookmarks targeting breast cancer survivors with information about the connections between breast and ovarian cancer. “We send everything out for free—there’s no charge for anything,” notes Jodie.
An educational video targeting health providers will be completed in the coming months. Featuring interviews with ovarian cancer survivors and doctors who diagnose and treat the disease, the MedEd video will educate physicians and their staff to recognize ovarian cancer. “So many women are being misdiagnosed,” says Jodie. “No one is talking to the front line doctors who could diagnose them earlier.”
The NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Foundation is entirely volunteer run. An annual gala held at the end of September provides funding to support the foundation’s activities throughout the year. This year’s Night to BEAT the Big O will take place on September 27.
Each of the NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s activities is based on something Norma and Leah enjoyed—jewelry, art, kitchen supplies. Sales from their Bling4Cancer jewelry line subsidize operating costs. As Jodie says: “We’ll probably never do a run/walk, because neither of them would have been caught dead in sneakers!” However, they do kick off awareness month in a local Labor Day parade. One of the group’s September events highlights Norma and Leah’s love of art with a screening of NED the Movie at the Figge Art Museum. The screening will take place in conjunction with an exhibition of cancer survivors’ art at the museum, including one piece created by nine ovarian cancer survivors.
The NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Foundation values the connections that come with being a Partner Member of the Alliance. “The work you do at the national level trickles down and helps us at the local level,” notes Jodie. After visiting with her members of Congress during the Ovarian Cancer National Conference, Jodie has now arranged for their congresswoman to visit the foundation in September to sign a local proclamation declaring September Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
“This is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done,” says Jodie. “To be able to do something for so many people who are so sick and to save lives from this disease means the world to me.”