Women raise ovarian cancer awareness by starting holiday shopping at Ladies Day Out

Sunday, October 28, 2007
Ashley Fenwick signed an ovarian cancer awareness quilt Saturday at the Osage Community Centre during Ladies Day Out. The quilt, which received more than 1,000 signatures, was signed by attendees who donated a dollar and took a pamphlet on the symptoms of ovarian cancer. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

The St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness booth at the Osage Community Centre was the focus of the first "Ladies Day Out" event, a craft and home-based business expo held Saturday. The event was created to raise awareness support victims of this deadly disease.

Ovarian cancer victim Joni Adams Bliss was the voice for potential ovarian cancer victims on Saturday. An appliqued ribbon quilt given to Bliss by a friend was draped over a table. Those who picked up an ovarian cancer information pamphlet and read it were invited to sign the quilt. Getting people to read about a disease whose symptoms are often mimicked as typical menopausal or gastric disorders is important if they ever plan to take action. "It whispers ... so listen," is the tagline associated with ovarian cancer.

Bliss said she was first misdiagnosed by a local doctor two years ago when she gained 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weight gain, understandable for the holiday season, was her only complaint, but, she said, "I felt like I was pregnant." Serious about getting yearly pelvic exams, Bliss said, "You've got to listen to your body. You've got to be your own medical advocate."

Ovarian cancer is sometimes known as the "silent disease." The CA-125 blood test, one of the diagnostic tests given for ovarian cancer, is not always definitive because some noncancerous diseases of the ovaries also increase the levels of the antigen CA-125, and some ovarian cancers may not produce enough CA-125 to cause a positive test.

Bliss' test determined she was a stage IIIc (stage four being the worst, d being the highest level at each stage). Because she was adopted there were no genetic indicators to go by.

The idea of holding Ladies Day Out began in August when Debra Rau, one of the quilt creators and a friend of Bliss, thought it would be a good way to spread the word about ovarian cancer. "We put an ad in the Southeast Missourian for vendors and the response of over 75 calls was overwhelming. We expected to reserve one of the meeting rooms here. The ones with about six tables. This is a God thing. Instead of just a few booths, it's grown into an awesome thing. People signed up today even at the last minute."

Variety of vendors

Seventy booths in all lined the main floor of the Osage Centre; wide aisles and low partitions promoted a more relaxed atmosphere. Add homemade cookies with teal-colored icing, food samples and marketing from a home-based businesses perspective, and the pressure of the rush of the holidays is taken away. Chiropractic care, makeup, personalized apparel, massage therapists, purses, photography and jewelry were some of the goods and services available.

Pursley Chiropractic decorated its booth in teal balloons and gave a donation as well.

Vendors' booth rental fees were applied to the fundraiser benefiting the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the St. Louis Area Cancer Awareness organization. Rau said they saved on setting up the tables themselves so they could donate more money.

River City Health Clinic had to cancel their appearance due to a family death but rescheduled voucher distribution for free pelvic exams to Nov. 14 for women who can't afford the exams. Call 332-0121 for more information.

Bliss, who is still receiving chemotherapy treatments for a disease that, in its earliest stages, has a five-year survival rate of more than 93 percent, said it's easy to get cynical but that she's lucky she got this wake-up call that has caused her to see how caring people are.

Instead of rushing and running, she said, "when you have a disease like this you take stock of your friends, family and church. Now I watch the sunsets and sunrises. I know there are people all over who are praying for me."

Although she's still not in remission, Adams is thankful she is still able to work, and despite the chemotherapy she receives, feels well most of the time.

cpagano@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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