Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope brings awareness to disease

Jodi Schellenberg
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Although the Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope will be held in Saskatoon on Sunday, it also has a local connection.

Marilyn Young, a teacher from Prince Albert, will be attending he Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope in Saskatoon on Sunday. Young has ovarian cancer herself and wants to raise awareness of the disease.

Marilyn Young, a teacher at Carlton Comprehensive High School, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on Oct. 31, 2011.

“I was totally like everyone else who is diagnosed with the disease -- it is a total shock that you are never sick and then all of a sudden you have this thing and it is something no one is aware of,” Young said.

To learn more about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, click here.

Since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, life has completely changed, she said.

“It is like a roller coaster -- some days are good, some days are crappy and that is to be expected with any disease,” Young said. “There are some unknowns that you don’t know you are going to go through.”

One of the unknowns was a medical condition related to the disease.

“I ended up with ascites, which is fluid in my belly,” Young said. “I thought I was delivering twins and ended up three litres of fluid were drained.

“That is what I have to do now every two to three weeks just to relieve the pressure,” she added. “There are little things like that you don’t know about but they come with the disease.”

Another hurdle she discovered was that the Saskatchewan government does not cover some of the cancer drugs and due to her illness she is not currently working.

“I didn’t know cancer drugs aren’t all paid for, so now I have to go through some financial stress a little bit, so maybe some more fundraising to pay for drugs that aren’t covered,” she said.

The Walk of Hope is extremely important because it is the only fundraising project Ovarian Cancer Canada currently has.

“What the walk is going to do is bring awareness and research into the disease,” Young said. “That is their only means of raising any kind of money to do any kind of research to get rid of this horrid disease.”

Catherine Mazurkewich of Cudworth is a chair of the Saskatoon walk and also has a personal connection to the disease.

She and her two sisters are involved because their other sister was one of the people to first bring the walk to Saskatoon in 2006.

“Barbara was diagnosed stage one in 2002 but because of certain events that happened along the way, all of a sudden she became stage three and stage four because she didn’t get the treatment that she should have when she was first diagnosed,” Mazurkewich said. “She was a seven-year survivor and died in January 2009. That’s why we are involved.

“We have been involved ever since it came to Saskatoon,” she added. “There are just things that happened in her situation that we definitely don’t want anybody to have the same thing happen to them.”

When her sister was first diagnosed, the health professionals said it was a disease commonly found in older ladies and wasn’t something to worry about.

“She became part of the Cancer Connection, where they team you up with women of similar ages and that’s when they told her, ‘Don’t worry, you will hardly have anybody phone you,’” Mazurkewich said. “In a matter of weeks she had I don’t know how many that were younger than her call. I think even the health care professionals -- they don’t know. They just aren’t trained. It is just so difficult to diagnose.”

The walk is important because not only does it raise funds to help create an early detection test and find a cure.

“Ovarian Cancer Canada does fund doctors so they get to be specialized in treating ovarian cancer and they do very important research as well,” she said. “They will contribute money towards the research. They are just wanting to support, for sure, the lives of all the women who have been affected and their families by ovarian cancer.”

Mazurkewich believes they have made a lot of progress since the walk started in Saskatoon. At the beginning they had just more than 50 people and it now has close to 500.

“Since Barbara died in 2009, we can see improvements with the treatments and they are starting to approve other methods that are allowed in other (places),” she said. “They are allowing other treatments finally into this province where women are living longer.”

She would like to see more gynecologists trained to deal with gynaecological cancers.

“They do have more trained people now to deal with ovarian cancer because it can be a very difficult surgery and now we have two in Saskatoon so that we are grateful for,” Mazurkewich said.

She stressed the walk is not just for Saskatoon, but also for the entire province. There are people from rural communities, including Prince Albert, North Battleford, Swift Current and Cudworth.

This is Young’s third year in the walk and she is proud to take her team The Mighty Ms to Saskatoon this Sunday.

“Haley Wickenhauser is the National Team Captain, so that is kind of cool to have somebody that is a national celebrity on the team -- that might help out a little bit,” Young said. “We are also paired with Couer, that is a collaborative company that is going to pair donations made with the Terry Fox Foundation. Dollar for dollar, it is going to be paired to make more money for ovarian cancer.”

Anyone wishing to donate can visit www.ovariancacnerwalkofhope.ca

Daily Herald reporter Jodi Schellenberg is also participating in the walk with Team Mars in memory of her sister.

Organizations: Carlton Comprehensive High School, Ovarian Cancer Canada, Prince Albert Terry Fox Foundation Daily Herald Team Mars

Geographic location: Saskatoon, Cudworth, Saskatchewan North Battleford Swift Current

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