Lilies of the Valley got its start in 2004 when a new gynecologic oncologist moved to the city of Huntsville, Alabama. His wife had a friend with ovarian cancer, and she noticed that there were no support groups available for women with this disease. Current Executive Director Regina Parker recalls: “She got together with some of the ladies who were in treatment and started a support group—it grew from there.” Today the Lilies are celebrating their tenth anniversary, and have expanded to include education and advocacy in their mission.
The group exhibits at health fairs throughout the year, where they hand out awareness materials and talk to attendees about ovarian cancer. The Lilies of the Valley educate the public and health care providers through Teal Talks and the Alliance’s Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program. The Teal Talks are geared towards the general public. “Two or three of our members will go and speak to a group about the signs of ovarian cancer,” says Regina. “It’s eye opening for us that there is still so much ignorance out there; many women think the Pap smear tests for ovarian cancer. It really highlights the need for education in the community.” Every other year the group hosts a Spring Symposium at Calhoun Community College, geared towards health professionals, nurses and nursing students. Speakers from the community—including local survivors—update the audience on ovarian cancer treatment and side effects.
The support group that started Lilies of the Valley continues to meet once a month. Every other month is an open forum that allows survivors to talk about the issues they are facing. The other months feature speakers who are experts in some aspect of life with cancer, including dieticians, physical therapists and chemo nurses. “Sometimes we just try and do something fun,” says Regina.
This September the Lilies helped spread awareness of ovarian cancer by taking part in a statewide campaign called A State of Teal. Started by three ovarian and gynecologic cancer groups in Birmingham, Alabama, A State of Teal asked organizations to light buildings teal in September. Four locations in Huntsville turned teal this year, including the Botanical Gardens, Calhoun Community College, Huntsville Hospital Women & Children’s Center, and Downtown Huntsville Inc. lighted the al.com building teal for one weekend. The Lilies also secured ovarian cancer awareness proclamations from several local mayors.
The Lilies of the Valley also maintain a Garden of Life and Remembrance on land donated by the city of Huntsville. Supporters can purchase a brick in honor or memory of a woman with ovarian cancer. The bricks are installed once a year during a ceremony in September. The names of local women who have passed away from ovarian cancer are also engraved on a statue in the garden.
Regina encouraged the Lilies to become a Partner Member because “I believe there’s strength in numbers. The more that we can join with national and state groups, the more powerful we’re all going to be.”