With a new location and a growing number of participants, organizers of this year’s Walk of Hope for Ovarian Cancer Canada are gearing up to make this one the biggest yet.
Although it’s only in its sixth year in Ottawa, the event – which had 800 participants and raised more than $137,500 for ovarian cancer research, support and education last year – is the second largest in the country, said event co-chair Kerry Stewart.
It’s grown so much in recent years that this Sept. 13, organizers are moving the 5K walk from Vincent Massey Park to the larger, more visible Mooney’s Bay.
Visibility is a big issue for anyone working with the cause.
“Our main battle is awareness,” said Stewart. “It’s the most fatal gynecological cancer in Canada.”
Because the disease is “not on the medical radar” and there is no screening test for ovarian cancer – most cases are found while patients are screened for other things – it’s often not diagnosed until the third or fourth stage. By then, patients have a 20 per cent chance of surviving up to three years, Stewart said.
It’s also becoming a young women’s concern. While most of the patients are over 40, “increasingly, we’re finding that younger women are diagnosed,” Stewart said – in some cases as young as 12.
When the disease is detected early, patients have a 90 per cent chance of complete recovery, Stewart said. That’s why Ovarian Cancer Canada – where proceeds from the walk go, along with research, support and the survivors teaching students program – offers its Listen to the Whispers program.
The program teaches women about signs and symptoms and not to brush them off, but to get tested, Stewart said.
The walk will feature guest speaker Dr. Barbara Vanderhyden, who is a leading ovarian cancer researcher and a professor at uOttawa.
“What her group is doing is leading-edge research,” Stewart said.
In addition, former Olympian and Ottawa resident Elizabeth Manley will be promoting the walk across the city this week.