When WNY Ovarian Cancer Project co-founder Kathleen Maxian was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she felt overwhelmed by the amount of negative statistics and information she found on the internet. It took a long 6 months until she met a long-term ovarian cancer survivor who showed her survival was possible. Now a 6-year survivor, Kathleen says that at the time of her diagnosis “she wishes had met someone like me,” as it is so “important for women to know that there are long term survivors out there.” As she continued to learn more about ovarian cancer in the following years, Kathleen recognized the “importance of giving women trusted information,” that is both timely and based in reputable science. After realizing a local organization doing symptom and risk assessment did not exist, she and a few other survivors in her area decided to start the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project. It was officially founded in 2012 with the aim of being the trusted source for ovarian cancer information in the western New York region, as well as a place for newly diagnosed women to connect with other survivors.
The WNY Ovarian Cancer Project hosts two main events each year. In September, during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project holds its Annual “Teal Niagara Falls-Teal the World,” where ovarian cancer survivors and advocates gather to see Niagara Falls turn teal, complete with a celebration. In its third year, the lighting has gained a lot of attention, even within the international community. Additionally, each spring, the organization holds its Annual Germanium Sale; this year they sold around 6,000 geraniums. With each purchase a symptom and risk card is also included. All proceeds from this fundraiser fund the group’s supportive services for women with ovarian cancer, including their signature “Comfort & Hope Tote” program. These totes are given free to every woman newly diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer through her Gynecologic Oncologists office and include items that can be taken to chemotherapy appointments like a soft blanket, teal water bottle, and teal lunchbox. But most importantly, inside the tote is a letter from the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project, which lets them know that they are there for them to answer questions, provide reliable information on ovarian cancer, or just to talk. This program is particularly near and dear to Kathleen’s heart, due to its ability to reach newly diagnosed women before they even have their first round of chemotherapy- something that Kathleen wishes happened to her when she was first diagnosed. The sale also fund WNYOCP’s two professionally facilitated support group programs, which launched last year. Two support groups, led by a social worker, one face-to-face and the other a tele-support group, meet once a month and offer a safe and caring environment for women dealing with ovarian cancer. All of the programs of the WNYOCP are offered free of charge, through these two fundraising efforts.
The WNY Ovarian Cancer Project also works alongside the Alliance through the Partner Member program in its advocacy efforts. They value the program as it allows the ovarian cancer community to come together with one voice. Together with the Alliance, the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project works with federal, state and local public policy makers to insure resources and funding for ovarian cancer research and services.
Kathleen notes that the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project exists to help answer the question of “what can we do to be most helpful” for women with ovarian cancer. It seems that they have found an answer and are working together to put those words into action to help not only their local community, but also the ovarian cancer community as a whole.