Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer. It is the most deadly of all the “women’s” cancers. 1 in 72 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In 2008 my sister Judy was the one.
Judy was the oldest of seven, a wife of 20-plus years, mother of two, and a registered nurse. She passed away a year later at the age of 49. Sisters are one of life’s greatest blessings and to lose one is unbearable.
In 2010 with the help of many I formed Ovarian Cancer Awareness Charlotte, NC. For five years I promoted awareness and worked with other local non-profits trying to make a difference. Five years in I was feeling depleted when, by the grace of God, I met a young, single mom named Amy Roberts who'd lost her beloved Grandma Mae to ovarian cancer in 2011. Since then Amy has been on the committee for the Ballantyne Relay For Life with the American Cancer Society. We met at the height of the ALS Water Bucket Challenge and every day Amy would send me messages saying that we need to do something ... we need a challenge. She was right, we did. But what???
Prior to Judy passing away, my mom, sisters, niece, and I took a girls' trip to Blowing Rock, NC. We all purchased beautiful butterfly necklaces at a boutique called IAGO on Main Street. Each was a different color and we complimented one another as we all put them on. We asked the sales lady to take a picture and just before she did, Judy with her contagious laugh joked and said “make a butterfly symbol with your hands.”
I came across that photo later and that’s when it hit me: What if we asked people to paint their nails teal (the awareness color for ovarian cancer), make a butterfly with their hands, challenge others to do the same, and post on social media using #tealbutterflychallenge.
Amy and I decided to launch the challenge the first day of Spring as that’s when butterflies appear. The challenge quickly spread on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We painted nails all over Charlotte, NC. Men, women, teenagers, and children were all stepping up to take the challenge. We made a YouTube video and an article appeared in the local newspaper. Before Spring was over, hundreds of people all over the world took the Challenge. We were receiving messages daily from so many people sharing their stories and thanking us for giving ovarian cancer awareness a voice.
Girls trip to Blowing Rock, NC (Judy, far left)
Kendall (Amy's daughter) with Grandma Mae
Ovarian cancer has no screening test, no cure, and very little funding for research -- but if caught early enough chances of survival increase. Women need to listen to their bodies and know the symptoms. Knowledge is power! Recognizing the symptoms of ovarian cancer can allow a woman to be diagnosed at an earlier stage; being diagnosed at an earlier stage can almost double the chances of survival. We need to educate ourselves and our girls. We owe it our future generations!