When nothing was available to support women with ovarian cancer, one local woman made sure she changed that.
After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago, Susan Glynn searched for a support group to help her with her battle. Glynn couldn’t find a group in this province or in any other part of the country.
She took matters into her own hands and formed Women of Hope Ovarian Cancer Support Group NL. Members of the group reach out to those affected by the disease in this province and beyond.
“We want to help women dealing with ovarian cancer and their family and friends,” she said.
In addition to monthly meetings in St. John’s, the group also offers online support and has welcomed members from other parts of the world.
Thanks to Women of Hope, the City of St. John’s, proclaimed September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month on Sept. 11. The initiative encourages people to “Turn the Town Teal” – teal representing the colour of ovarian cancer.
“And on Tuesdays and Thursdays I ask people to wear teal so we can get talking about ovarian cancer,” Glynn said.
Glynn said females of all ages, including children, are diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that 2,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017. Forty-five women in this province will be among them.
An estimated 30 women fighting ovarian cancer will lose their battle in 2017. Ovarian cancer is more treatable when detected early. After her Stage 3 ovarian diagnosis in April 2015, Glynn underwent aggressive chemotherapy followed by surgery and more chemotherapy.
“I got to ring the bell,” she said of the Bell of Hope cancer survivors ring at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre to celebrate their final round of chemotherapy.
While she did well for over a year, Glynn’s cancer returned earlier this year. “I got diagnosed on my birthday, April 20… I haven’t been feeling well this time around at all. The battle is brutal,” she said of her second cancer battle.
Glynn said she’s fortunate to have support from family and friends, a great oncologist in Dr. Cathy Popadiuk and a caring family physician – Dr. Amanda Scott.
Staff at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre are also fantastic, she said. Staying active is also part of Glynn’s routine. She has completed six Tely 10 road races over the years – three of which she embarked on since her initial cancer diagnosis. Glynn also conquered the 20 km Cape (Spear) to Cabot (Tower) race in 2016 and raised money for Ovarian Cancer Canada.
While she’s pleased with the care she’s been getting in fighting her cancer, Glynn is upset that Eastern Health does not designate specific parking near the cancer centre for cancer patients.
“I had to go to have blood work at the cancer clinic in July (2015). I drove around for 45 minutes and couldn’t get a place to park,” she recalled.
Glynn asked other cancer patients if they had trouble finding parking spaces.
Many told her they, too, were facing the same problem. Glynn and her goddaughters – Gabrielle MacDonald, 11, and Alexis MacDonald, 9, started an online change.org petition calling on Eastern Health to designate 25 spaces near the cancer centre for cancer patients.
“I’m very proud of those two children. They’ve become advocates,” Glynn said.
The health authority has increased blue zone parking spaces at the Health Sciences Centre from 15 to 23. However, Glynn said, that’s not what her group is looking for. Blue zone parking spaces are for people with disabilities and not just for cancer patients, she said.
“The cancer clinic is a separate clinic from the Health Sciences and we deserve our own parking near the cancer clinic,” she said.
With the help of well known advocate Jeff Blackwood, the petition now has over 23,500 signatures. Glynn is also calling on the provincial government to support the petition. She’s also working to have Women of Hope designated as a charitable organization so that money raised for ovarian cancer will stay in NL to support research efforts being undertaken by physicians in this province. While she has several goals to accomplish, Glynn’s main focus is on ensuring cancer patients get the parking spaces they need and deserve. It’s a battle that she’s passionate about and one she doesn’t intend to put aside anytime soon.
“Some of the people who signed this petition have died. They had asked me to keep going (with the petition). So, out of respect for those who have lost their battle and those who are still going through their battle, I’m not giving up.”
Women of Hope Ovarian Cancer Support Group meets at Daffodil Place in St. John’s the third Wednesday of every month. Meetings start at 7 pm.