Heather Weeks had a goal:Mmake the teal ribbon associated with ovarian cancer as recognizable as the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon. Heather died of colon cancer five years ago at the age of 24, but her mission has continued through the organization Hope for Heather. Sunday, the group held its fifth annual Teal Ribbon Run. As our Sarah Blazonis tells us, the event and its message continues to expand its reach.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Some ran as proof that survival is possible, others in support of those still fighting ovarian cancer. More than 1,000 people took part in this year's Teal Ribbon Run. It's a far cry from the original's 250 participants, but that's not the only thing that's changed.
"Just having a dialogue out there, because the dialogue was not out there five years ago and that's what we're here to do," said Frieda Weeks, Heather Weeks' mother and president of Hope for Heather.
Weeks says the past five years have been dedicated to educating the community. There's no definitive test for ovarian cancer, and signs can be hard to detect.
As part of its awareness campaign, Hope for Heather hands out symptom cards, letting women know that vague symptoms, like bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain or having trouble eating or feeling full quickly could be signs of a bigger problem. This information itself is evidence of the progress made through research.
"The most exciting thing that's happened since my diagnosis is the fact that they realized there are such symptoms. There were no symptoms that were published," said Virginia Denny, ovarian cancer survivor and president of the support group GRACE'S Gynecologic Cancer Support.
And more work is being done. Weeks says developments she's excited about include a test strip that can detect cancer proteins early.
"They're also finding that there's evidence that ovarian cancer's actually starting in the fallopian tubes, which means that is why it's sometimes so difficult to diagnose," said Weeks.
Some of the run proceeds go to fund research and Weeks says though she's proud of her group's accomplishments, she knows Heather wouldn't be satisfied yet.
"She would tell me that, 'These numbers are great, Mom, but you need to make this bigger.' So that's what we're doing," said Weeks.
It's a race some say they don't intend to quit before that ultimate finish line, a cure, is reached. Part of the proceeds from Sunday's run will also go to local education and support services.
Women of all ages are at risk for ovarian cancer, especially those with a family history of breast, colon or ovarian cancer.
For more information, visit www.hopeforheather.orr.