Partner Member Profile: Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington

2015 marks the 10th anniversary of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington, a Partner Member organization dedicated to spreading awareness through education, providing support to women and their families, and advocating for awareness and research funding. When Diane Rader O’Conner met Diane Elizondo while undergoing treatment for ovarian cancer, they realized the need for a local ovarian cancer organization focused on supporting other women going through their same diagnosis. Together, in 2005 “the two Diane’s” were able to achieve their dream and created the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington.

The Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington has grown significantly in recent years, and in 2012 they hired their first employee, Executive Director Amy Ward Kirschbaum, after being 100% volunteer run for seven years. One of her first additions was the creation of an annual fundraiser, the O-Vary Funny Stand-up Benefit for Ovarian Cancer. This October will mark its third year as their signature event. With a dinner, silent auction, and comedy show featuring local comedians and local gynecologist as the emcee, it is a night of levity and fun. In addition, each June they provide an annual medical update for both survivors and local health professionals which overviews information that was covered at both ASCO and SGO in order to assist in the local community in understanding larger medical changes occurring in the ovarian cancer community. They also have an annual survivor and volunteer luncheon in early spring; this year over 80 individuals from the community attended. Both the medical update and survivor luncheon are provided free of cost to the community.

The Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington also provides various year round programs to support their mission of education, advocacy, and support. They organize a local mentoring program that pairs ovarian cancer survivors with women who either are newly diagnosed or facing a recurrence. They actively participant in the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives ® Program (STS) that is facilitated through the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (the Alliance), which brings ovarian cancer survivors into medical, nursing, and PA classrooms, where they present their unique stories along with facts about the disease to educate the future healthcare providers. In addition, the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and Southwest Washington works closely with the Alliance as a strong advocate on both the state and federal level for ovarian cancer awareness and research funding. In addition to the STS program and advocacy work, Amy says the partnership between the Alliance and the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and SW Washington allows them access to the national perspective on ovarian cancer while still allowing them to work and provide programs that are accessible and relatable to their local community.

The strength of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and SW Washington radiates from co-founder Diane Rader O’Connor. She answers their hotline, organizes the STS program in the area, and connects peer mentors with survivors, all purely on a volunteer basis. Amy describes Diane as a person who “takes the time with each and every survivor and truly cares to make connections,” which she says is necessary for any successful organization.

Looking ahead, we can only expect that the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and SW Washington will continue to build on its foundation of education, awareness, and advocacy all while providing a local and comforting atmosphere for the women and families of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Here’s to another 10 great years!

Click here to learn more about the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Oregon and SW Washington.

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