One of the teams you’ll see at the 9th annual Run for Her® is Cedars-Sinai’s 3 North. Here is their story:
By the time they got to the starting line for their first Run for Her® 5K Run and Friendship Walk last year, leaders of the 3 North team had already surprised themselves with their performance. Their team — officially named “CSMC 3 North Mother/Baby” — signed up more than 100 members, placing 3 North among the event’s five largest teams, and it raised more than $5,000.
At this year’s run on Nov. 10, they hope to exceed 2012′s performance, fueled by new motivation. They will be running for Danyel Hitchman, a 26-year-old ovarian cancer patient who stole their hearts during her stay in their maternity unit.
That a patient with ovarian cancer wound up in a maternity unit was unusual enough. But it was Hitchman’s outlook — so positive and loving during such a difficult time — that really stood out.
“When I first went to work with Danyel, I expected someone who was down and upset,” said Ciella Espinoza, a lactation specialist in the unit. “And what I found was this amazing light of a person who is so sweet and joyous and optimistic. You wouldn’t expect that from someone who had gotten this type of cancer and just gone through so much.”
Hitchman’s cancer was discovered in January, amid the happiest time of her life. On Sept. 2, 2012, she married her husband, Logan. A few weeks later, Hitchman learned she was pregnant with their first child. At her first prenatal visit, however, her doctor found signs of trouble.
“I was a lot bigger than I should have been at 12 weeks (pregnant), so the doctor did an ultrasound,” Hitchman said. “He found a cyst the size of a football.”
It was a complex ovarian cyst made up of numerous separate nodules. During surgery performed when Hitchman was 14 weeks pregnant, the cyst broke apart. Subsequent biopsies determined that parts of the cyst were malignant.
Terminating the pregnancy so she could immediately begin treatment for the cancer was discussed, but Hitchman said she never considered it.
“Everybody around me thought I should think about it, but to me it was never an option,” Hitchman said. “If I didn’t have this baby, then I would never have any children. And, anyway, she had just saved my life.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
To register for Run for Her or to donate to the cause, please visit runforher.com
A cesarean section was scheduled and on May 3, Willow Grace Hitchman was born. Hitchman had only a moment to hold her daughter and then underwent a full hysterectomy. A few days later, as both a new mother and a cancer patient, Hitchman was moved to 3 North, the maternity unit. It was there that Hitchman met Espinoza and other members of 3 North’s Run for Her team.
Mercedes Mendez, RN, a clinical nurse IV who has worked at Cedars-Sinai for 14 years, helped form the Run for Her team last year. Of the 6,000 new mothers the unit handles each year, few have cancer, she said. But the loss of a loved one, a colleague or a patient due to cancer has affected everyone on 3 North, she said.
So when Anna Greif, the unit manager, asked the staff to consider forming a Run for Her team, Mendez volunteered to be a team captain.
Last year, a donation of white-framed sunglasses that all of the team members wore helped them stand out from the crowd. This year, several ideas are under discussion, including team tutus. Their main focus, however, is raising money for research and spreading awareness of the disease.
“You don’t know until you’re there how inspiring Run for Her is,” Espinoza said. “A lot of survivors are there, and so are a lot of family members of people who didn’t make it. And being with co-workers outside of the workplace, it has brought me closer to my colleagues.”
As for Hitchman, she can’t believe her luck. Her baby saved her life, and now her story is helping to save others. She, her husband and baby Willow will all be at the event.
“It’s so touching, what they’re doing,” Hitchman said. “When they first told me, I just started to cry. …
“I’m so grateful that we have this way to spread the word about ovarian cancer.”
This story was originally published in the Oct. 30 edition of the Cedars-Sinai Employee Newsletter. If you have a story to share, please contact Marina.Gudelman@cshs.org.
INCREASE YOUR AWARENESS
Learn the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and educate the women in your life.
Through executive proclamation, President Barack Obama has officially declared September 2013 as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In his remarks from the White House, the President noted that over 22,000 women will die from ovarian cancer this year, and that there is still no detection test available. He also reinforced that early detection saves lives, that many women are at great risk due to their family history or their age, and that increased awareness among the general public and healthcare providers would have a positive impact.
“My administration is investing in research to improve our understanding of ovarian cancer and develop better methods for diagnosis and treatment,” said the President.
The move to give federal recognition to Ovarian Cancer Awareness month was praised by Beth Y. Karlan, MD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute and 2012 presidential appointee to the National Cancer Advisory Board. “Everything we can do to raise awareness and encourage early detection will save lives. This administration has once again shown its support for women and its commitment to eliminating gender disparities in access to care and research.”
To learn more about how you can help spread awareness and make a difference in the fight against ovarian cancer, visit runforher.com.
A few weeks ago, I stood in the back of the auditorium at Cedars-Sinai listening to three run for her® team captains tell their stories to medical students and residents. I couldn’t help but tear up. No matter how many times I hear the personal stories of ovarian cancer survivors, the emotions are like the first time all over again.
These team captains were speaking on behalf of a program called Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives®, where women “teach” medical professionals about ovarian cancer from the perspective of patients and survivors. I would like to share their stories with you.
Paulinda Schimmel Babbini
Captain, The Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired by Robin Babbini
Paulinda told the story of losing her daughter Robin at the young age of 20. Robin Babbini was an active teenager and honor student, engaged in numerous high school activities — co-captain of the cheerleading squad, homecoming queen and active in dramatic arts.
At the age of 17, Robin was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. She had a total hysterectomy followed by chemotherapy treatments. And with all this she was still able to complete her classes, graduate high school, and later began her freshman year at UC Santa Barbara. Unfortunately, six short months later, her cancer recurred and had metastasized; Robin lost her battle in 2006.
Paulinda founded The Ovarian Cancer Circle/Inspired By Robin Babbini to honor her daughter’s memory (www.theovariancancercircle.org). She has made it her mission to educate young women about ovarian cancer symptoms. She visits Robin’s sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma to talk about her daughter’s experience with ovarian cancer and educate young girls about this disease–a disease that many their age have no idea even exists.
Co-Captain, Team Doreen
Doreen’s story begins where Robin Babbini’s story ends. Her daughter attended nursery school with Robin Babbini, so in 2008 Braverman attended a lunch and learn event that Paulinda was co-chairing. While there, she picked up a bookmark with a list of ovarian cancer symptoms.
Later that year, Doreen experienced bloating around her abdomen while traveling — her mind went straight to that bookmark with the ovarian cancer symptoms. When she returned home, her gynecologist performed a transvaginal ultrasound and immediately referred her to a gynecologic oncologist who confirmed the diagnosis: Stage III ovarian cancer. Three days later she underwent surgery to remove the cancer and began chemotherapy. Doreen didn’t have a family history of ovarian cancer, but she had learned the signs and took action fast. That action saved her life.
Team Doreen was started by her husband and two daughters in 2008. Today the team has dozens of regular participants and has raised more than $27,000 for the cause. Team Doreen has been among the largest run for her teams three times. (Read Doreen’s full story in On the Run to Fight Ovarian Cancer.)
Captain, Shayne’s Courageous Crusaders
At age 38, Shayne was a happily married, busy accountant; she and her husband had been trying to conceive a child for almost a year. One day, she noticed that she was a little more tired than usual, and did not have much of an appetite. When she did eat, she would get horrible indigestion — something she had never experienced before – and a constant urgency to urinate. She thought, could I be pregnant? Shayne and her husband were leaving on vacation so she figured she would make an appointment to see her gynecologist when she returned.
After telling her gynecologist about her symptoms, a CT scan showed a cloudy mass surrounding the right ovary so that afternoon she was sent for an MRI. The results showed what looked like a fibroid tumor. Just to be “safe,” the doctor said they should have it removed and biopsied. One month later, Shayne was diagnosed with Stage II epithelial ovarian cancer and had her right ovary removed. When my doctor spoke with my family and me, I didn’t hear anything the doctor said except the word CANCER,” she recalled.
She was immediately referred to a gynecological oncologist who paid special attention to the reason this cancer was found: Shayne was trying to conceive a child. His recommended course of action took into consideration her wishes to preserve fertility if at all possible. Several surgeries later – which included removing her uterus and eventually her left ovary and six cycles of chemotherapy – Shayne knows that her determination to start a family is what essentially saved her life. She is now coming up on her third year as an ovarian cancer survivor.
I want to thank Doreen, Paulinda, and Shayne for so generously sharing their stories. These three strong women have made educating others about ovarian cancer a part of their lives. They join us at run for her every year with family and friends who are a part of their incredible teams, raising awareness and funds for the cause. They encourage and motivate others to participate and make a difference. We look forward to welcoming them back on November 10, 2013 as well as all the teams and individuals who make run for her such an incredible day.
run for her Team Coordinator
P.S. If you have a story you would like to share, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi all – I’m Brandi Brethour, team captain of BB’s Posse and forever friend of run for her. I just returned from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) 16th annual conference, “Voices of Hope and Strength: Teal is Personal.” As always, it was a great trip: a time to see old friends, make new friends, and remember dear friends as we all came together to hear about recent developments in the ovarian cancer world. A prominent theme of the conference this year was the importance of research and clinical trials. The conference slides are available at www.ovariancancer.org/2013-annual-conference. Our own Dr. Beth Karlan is a member of the OCNA Medical Advisory Board.
The capstone of the conference was Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill where almost 200 people dressed in teal lobbied our legislators for action. We asked Congress to appropriate $20 million to the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program to fund important, innovative, research into this disease. Additionally, we asked Congress to pass legislation (HR 1801/no Senate bill yet) giving oral chemotherapy parity with IV chemotherapy. Why is this important? IV chemotherapy is covered under a health plan’s medical benefitand patients are required to pay an office visit copayment. Conversely, in some areas, oral chemotherapy is covered under a prescription benefit with a much higher copayment. As a result, cancer patients may forego their prescribed oral chemotherapy thereby missing important treatments.
I am proud to say that in response to the California delegation’s request, Senator Barbara Boxer agreed to co-sponsor the Senate resolution declaring September “Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.”
Brandi is a guest blogger and 5-time run for her Team Captain. Catch up with Brandi and the rest of BB’s Posse at the 9th Annual run for her 5K Run & Friendship Walk on November 10!
CBS affiliate WTVR in Richmond, Virginia, has “signed on” to research for her! In an interview aired August 6 at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., the station reported on the lack of participation by women in clinical research. The interview highlights that physicians in the greater Richmond area have begun referring their female patients to participate in research for her, an innovative program sponsored by the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program.
The segment focused on the need to bring more women into research. Cedars-Sinai’s research for her program helps raise awareness about this important issue and aims to inspire all women – regardless of cancer diagnosis – to register to participate in appropriate clinical trials. Viewers were encouraged to link to the research for her website to learn more about the program. Watch the segment.
This work to bring more women into research continues to spread across the country. The longer term ramifications of this effort will help us improve care for women and bring better, facilitating more effective options for care and screening. To find out more about research for her click here.
Thank you for your support!
BJ Rimel, MD
Faculty Physician, Associate Director for Gynecologic Oncology Clinical Trials
Dr. Rimel is a gynecologic oncologist and faculty physician with the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute. She is the Principle Investigator for the Program‘s clinical trials.