More than 500 people gathered at Baker Park in Frederick Saturday, all sporting teal t-shirts, to spread awareness about ovarian cancer.
The 5K walk around the park brought together cancer survivors who wore teal “survivor” sashes, dogs wearing teal bandanas and some family and friends sporting teal tutus. A nearby car even had “survivor” written on its back window.
The event, Together in Teal, Ending Ovarian Cancer, was organized by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition’s Frederick chapter.
The local chapter, which has held the walk for six years, had a goal to raise $130,000, which they exceeded, according to Jenny Sarnecki, events coordinator for the Frederick chapter.
The money will go towards early awareness initiatives, research and programs that patients may need, such as rides to the hospital to receive treatment.
Mount Airy resident, Ellen Windmiller, attended the walk and is currently battling cancer.
She was diagnosed on May 8, 2014.
Her cancer is considered stable. She finished her last round of chemotherapy in January but still takes an oral chemotherapy drug.
She attends group meetings with other survivors and women currently battling ovarian cancer to get more insight, hear about their experiences and “compare notes.”
“I’ve learned so much by going to group meetings,” she said. “You think it’s going to be everybody just talking about support but they talk about their treatments, the different drugs that have been tried and the different clinical trials, so you learn a lot.”
But seeing so many people from the community come together to support those battling the disease makes her tear up every year when she attends the walk.
“The community can be amazing,” she said. “It’s just the most important thing.”
Beth Bennett, from Point of Rocks, was sporting a teal tutu with 10 of her family and friends.
Bennett was diagnosed in July 2016, and has been cancer free since February 14, 2017.
“It feels wonderful that all of my friends are here,” she said, adding that it’s their third year participating in the walk.
She hoped the walk would spread awareness about the disease and to teach women to look out for symptoms.
“Always go to all doctor’s appointments that you’re supposed to go to,” she said. “Have all tests done when you’re supposed to have them done, because that’s how I was diagnosed. I had no symptoms.”
Some symptoms that women do experience are back pain, a frequent need to urinate, trouble eating, pelvic or abdominal pain or bloating, according to the NOCC.
One in every 78 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, according to the coalition. While the NOCC reported that ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, it can’t be detected through a pap test.
“It is such a silent disease,” Sarnecki said. “These are signs that women think are something normal. Unfortunately what we found is that once it’s diagnosed we’re in the later stages of the disease. So it’s much more difficult to treat, if it can be treated. There’s no early detection.”
Before the walk, participants waved different-colored ribbons that represented different groups. Teal ribbons represented survivors of the cancer, purple was for caregivers and white was for women that died from ovarian cancer.
“This walk represents the awareness of ovarian cancer and the end of ovarian cancer,” Sarnecki said. “I want people to know that this is a disease that we can fight together.”
For more information on the NOCC, head to ovarian.org.