Partner Member Profile: Women's Cancer Awareness Group

Drop by the Petaluma Arts Center on September 2, and you will find a building bedecked in teal. The Women’s Cancer Awareness Group is using “yarn-bombing”—decorating a public structure or space with yarn—to raise awareness of ovarian cancer. Groups of knitters have gathered once a week to create teal items for the project; those who don’t knit are making other yarn crafts like pompoms and God’s Eyes. On September 2, they will decorate the Arts Center with their teal creations. A taiko drum performance in front of the Arts Center will draw in passersby and encourage them to learn about ovarian cancer.

The Women’s Cancer Awareness Group emerged from an awareness campaign that benefited the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Lydia Zipp, Executive Director of the group, complained to her friends about seeing “pink ribbons everywhere.” When a friend spotted a pink bracelet at a craft fair, she special ordered a bracelet in teal as a surprise for Lydia. The bracelet was such a hit, Lydia recalls, that “We started making them for friends, and then selling them.” A portion of the proceeds came back to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

In 2003, the Alliance held a Teal Training in California. Lydia thought the time was ripe for an ovarian cancer group in Northern California; she sometimes felt like “I was only person in Northern California with ovarian cancer.”

To kick off the group, she organized a lunch and learn program at a local library. Lydia expected the audience to know nothing about ovarian cancer. Instead, many survivors came to the event. “They were so happy to be together,” Lydia recalls. The survivors found the educational program a pleasant change from “sometimes depressing” support groups.

Today, the Women’s Cancer Awareness Group hosts a monthly Education and Empowerment lunch in Petaluma, CA, and quarterly sessions in two other towns. The events draw 20-40 people, including a core group of about 15 women who attend each monthly meeting. Topics range from the latest research to alternative therapies like yoga.

The group continues to work closely with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Lydia attended our 14th Annual Conference in July, and has participated in several advocacy days in Washington, DC. The Women’s Cancer Awareness Group has also recruited volunteers to help re-start the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives® program in the Bay Area. Lydia appreciates that the Alliance gives a unified national voice to ovarian cancer groups across the country: “It feels really good and strong that we’re saying what everyone else is across the nation.”

Above all, Lydia says, “I just want women to know that we’re here. We hear from survivors all the time, saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were here.’” She is organizing a mailing to local doctors’ offices this year, so they will tell newly diagnosed women about the group and give them information about ovarian cancer. The Women’s Cancer Awareness Group hopes that one day, no woman will feel like the only one in Northern California with ovarian cancer.

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