Elena Lowry considers herself lucky.
The Forest Hills resident was diagnosed with ovarian cancer almost seven years ago, and she’s still alive. Most women with ovarian cancer die within five years of their diagnosis.
“It’s just a bad disease,” Lowry says. “Because when they do discover it, it’s usually stage three or stage four.”
Because symptoms are vague and no diagnostic test exists, ovarian cancer is often called “the whisper.” Lowry and other women are working to create more noise about the disease. She and members of the ovarian cancer support group at Baylor University Medical Center are publishing TORCH, Tales of Remarkable Courage and Hope, a collection of 25 essays written by women in the group. They range in age from early 30s to mid-70s, and their essays deal with the harsh realities of living with ovarian cancer.
The book was the idea of group member Becky Teter, who spearheaded the project and edited the essays. Dr. Claude Stringer, a neighborhood resident who treats many of the women in the group, wrote the forward, and his wife, artist Shannon Kincaid-Stringer, created a painting to be used on the cover. The painting will also be made into a postcard and stamp for further fundraising.
Donations covered the cost of printing, and the group is using an online publisher. They plan to release TORCH in September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. It will be distributed for free to women with ovarian cancer. Many doctors and nurses have also expressed an interest in obtaining copies.
“I’m hoping more women will be aware,” Lowry says. “And that the ovarian cancer fund gets more funding for research.”
Jann Aldredge-Clanton, an oncology chaplain at Baylor University Medical Center, says the TORCH project helps both the essay’s authors as well as women who will be diagnosed in the future.
“I think the very writing of the stories has increased their hope,” Aldredge-Clanton says. “It has increased their enthusiasm, their energy and their empathy for one another. The hope is palpable.”
Lowry’s essay is entitled “Twilight,” and describes how she lives in twilight between recurrences of her disease, which she compares to darkness. She’s had three rounds of surgery and chemo since she was diagnosed.
“I feel like, right now, I haven’t had chemo for seven months,” Lowry says. “And I know next month, I could go back in and be on it again.”
Baylor’s support group has helped Lowry live with ovarian cancer, she says.
“We sit in there, and sometimes we cry,” she says. “[But] we do laugh a lot. We have fun. We make fun of each other. That helps. There’s only so much crying you can do.”
To make a donation for TORCH or to get more information, call the Cvetko Patient Education Center at 214.820.2608.
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