Nashua ovarian cancer run/walk raises awareness
Friday, September 27, 2013
More than 600 participants from Nashua, Bedford, Merrimack, Amherst and many other towns gathered on Sunday, Sept. 8, in Nashua’s Greeley Park to take part in the eighth annual Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer.
The distance for runners was 5K, a length of 3.1 miles. Walkers followed the same residential course or a shorter route of two miles. Dozens of volunteers were on hand to help with a multitude of tasks.
The event, hosted by the New Hampshire chapter of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC-NH), based in Newbury, was one of tributes to the living and to the deceased. Some in attendance lost a loved one to ovarian cancer. Others that day celebrated the survival of a friend, coworker or family member.
The recognized color for ovarian cancer is teal. Teams of runners and walkers wore matching T-shirts bearing the image of a woman taken from them by ovarian cancer. Others wore shirts heralding survivors. The goal of the event was $60,000 for research and education to raise awareness of the disease. A sum of $40,006 was tallied as of Sept. 15.
This year’s event was dedicated to Jeanne (Donovan) Sayce, of Nashua. She and Edward “Ted” Sayce, the parents of three, were married 38 years. Family surrounded her when she slipped away on March 26 due to ovarian cancer. Sayce was a popular member of the NOCC-NH. A purple plum tree planted in Greeley Park honors her memory.
Donna Lee Lozeau, Nashua’s mayor, was one of many that welcomed the runners, walkers, volunteers, sponsors and supporters. All were well entertained that day with music, prizes raffles and refreshments.
“This is an amazing event,” Lozeau said to the crowd. “It’s a wonderful turnout.”
The female winner and the male winner of the sanctioned 5K race, confirmed by 3C Race Productions, of Merrimack, raced to the finish line. Mariel Jefferson, 24, of Nashua, ran the course in 21:15 and was cited as the fastest female. Male finisher Josh Grante, of Nashua, was the first male to finish with a 15:53 – the fastest time of all.
Allen and Dianne Lindahl, of Merrimack, arrived early that morning to construct a colorful balloon arch at the park’s entrance. The couple inflated more than 250 balloons with help from Bedford’s Justine Andrews, 19, a graduate of Bedford High School who was completing a summer internship with NOCC-NH.
Andrews attends Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. She said it was heartwarming to see the community come together for such an important cause.
“This event creates an awareness for something that people don’t often think about,” Andrews said.
Lindahl, owner of Hillside Apiaries & Beekeeping Supplies, previously was married for 25 years to Brenda (Lessor) Lindahl, who passed in 2006 from ovarian cancer. An event in her honor, one called, “Brenda’s Walk,” was soon organized by Lindahl, his sister-in-law, Linda St. Onge, of Newbury, and Christy Gaskill, a Hollis resident.
The “Brenda’s Walk” event has evolved into the current “Break the Silence” event and motivated the formation of the New Hampshire chapter of NOCC. The N.H. chapter was co-founded by St. Onge and Susan Noel, of Methuen, Mass. Noel’s mother had succumbed to ovarian cancer.
Lindahl said that the first-ever walk drew 125 walkers and raised more than $10,000 in donations. The running event was added last year to the NOCC-NH event. Volunteers this year furthered the goal of increased awareness by distributing hundreds of printed cards highlighting ovarian cancer symptoms.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer noted there are many. They include bloating and trouble eating that may entail feeling too full too quickly. Noted too were pelvic or abdominal pain, back pain, constipation, menstrual changes and fatigue. Pain during sexual activity was listed, along with the feeling to urinate too urgently or too often.
“The symptoms of ovarian cancer can be extremely vague,” Lindahl said. “Whether it’s a general discomfort in the pelvic region, bloating, cramping, or whatever, please see your gynecologist. No one should have to go through what Brenda did – what we did.”
Community sponsors at this year’s event were valued resources. Regional sponsorship came from Concord Nissan, Genentech, Salem Nissan, Somersworth Hyundai and Somersworth Nissan. Those firms were joined by Peter’s Nissan of Nashua and Wingate Wealth Advisors. In addition, there were national sponsors including Mary Kay, Myriad, Welman and Wyler’s Light.
Appreciative of the support were ovarian cancer survivors Theresa Cummins, 70, and Deborah Hill, 55, both of Nashua. The pair stayed busy greeting visitors to the Survivors’ Tent, a rendezvous set up near the park’s bandstand.
Cummins, retired from the Federal Aviation Administration, is celebrating 11 years as a survivor. She and her husband, Larry, have four grown children and seven grandchildren. She said she was treated with chemotherapy and surgery after she experienced abdominal pains that were diagnosed as stage-three ovarian cancer.
“There’s no early detection test,” Cummins said. “At one point, I was stooped over in pain. You have to be proactive. If you’re not feeling right, ask for further tests. I feel blessed. It wasn’t my time. God wasn’t done with me, yet.”
Hill, and her husband, Dave, are Nashua residents for some 20 years. She was diagnosed in 2008. She is a first-grade teacher and like Cummins has undergone surgery and chemotherapy.
“I’m four-and-a-half years out and that’s really good,” Hill said. The symptoms mimic other conditions, so we’re trying to spread awareness to doctors, too.”
Lindahl added that a spring fund raiser, “Spring Fling for Ovarian Cancer Awareness,” is scheduled for 4-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 5, at the Homestead Restaurant & Tavern, 641 Daniel Webster Highway, in Merrimack. That evening, 50 percent of meal receipts will go to the NOCC-NH. A required coupon will be available in February online: www.ovarian.org/nh.
Lindahl thanked all who attended the Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer.
“Your support of NOCC is a step toward more awareness of ovarian cancer,” Lindahl said. “It’s so important for every woman to know that a feeling disregarded as ‘run of the mill’ could be a warning of something serious. Early diagnosis is the key to catching ovarian cancer, before it spreads.”
The mission of the NOCC is to raise awareness and promote education about ovarian cancer. The organization, based in Dallas, Texas, notes online that 20,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed each year with ovarian cancer. It relates that 15,000 die annually with the disease, discovered too late for potent intervention. The good news: The survival rate is 90 percent over five years for those women whose cancer is confined to the ovary. Early diagnosis is more likely when a woman, her family and her doctor are familiar with the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
For more information about ovarian cancer visit online: www.ovarian.org/nh.