DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A North Texas based non-profit is turning up the ‘bling’ to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. The disease is often called the ‘silent killer’—taking the lives of some 15,000 women every year.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has proclaimed Friday “Ring in the Cure” day. Supporters are asked to wear bright, blinking, obnoxious, can’t-miss-them rings, in the hope of prompting life-saving conversations about ovarian cancer’s subtle symptoms.
“Constipation, frequent urination, bloating, that’s kind of like, mid-life women things,” says Julie Shrell. “But, the reality is, if those kinds of symptoms last for two weeks or more, you really need to go see your doctor.” And Shrell should know.
“When I was diagnosed, I was shocked!” says Shrell. Breast? I would have thought `yeah’. But, never ovarian. I was 48.”
Other survivors share similar stories, and say they never saw it coming.
“A true shock,” says Jill Bach. “I was 44-years-old and other than having a cough, I thought I was perfectly healthy.”
Soon, a common search for purpose in their survival led them to the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. Someone there put the survivors in touch and soon a cycling fund raiser was organized… but, that didn’t seem enough.
Shrell, Bach, Helen Gardner and Lynn Lentscher got to work and created the “Be the Difference Foundation“. In just two short years, the non-profit has raised more than a million dollars to fund ovarian cancer research and support patients.
Medical City Dallas Hospital is partnering with the foundation to provide the rings and help publicize the effort. Community reaction has been so positive, that they’ve had to reorder in advance of Friday’s big “ring” awareness day.
“It’s been amazing,” says Lentscher, who says she too initially dismissed her symptoms as stress and “What 53 feels like.” But, she also feels that her life was spared for a reason. “I represent hope for so many people.”
Still, in battle, there are casualties. Co-founder Helen Gardner died last month.
“Helen’s death really kind of brings home the reality that unfortunately a large percentage of the women don’t make it,” says Bach.
The friends who bonded over their faith, fear and common fight now say the first ‘Ring in the Cure’ event is especially poignant, because Gardner played such a huge role in the effort.
“I promise to carry her torch,” says Shrell. “We will find a cure. We will be the difference in this fight — for her, for us and for any woman who’s fighting this disease.”
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