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Ovarian Cancer

Ashley's Team
Personal Stories

I see this race as a way to restart and officially tackle the journey ahead of me: Ashley’s Story

Ashley motivated a group of friends to join her for a 5k and raised $7,000! Run any race and support Bright Pink.

All my life I knew my paternal grandmother’s history with fatal breast and ovarian cancer. She passed away in her 40’s, which resulted in my dad losing his mother at the age of 18. I always knew that she had either been dealt a really bad set of cards or had a genetic mutation.

I decided to ask my doctors about genetic testing. I spoke with a doctor about my paternal family health history and she told me that I had nothing to worry about because it was on my father’s side. As you can imagine, her explanation didn’t sit right with me, so I explored more on my own and learned that this was not true! I left that doctor’s practice and went to another one. My new doctor encouraged me to find out about the BRCA mutation and advised me to get tested. Shortly after that talk, I was walking out of her office with a bandage on my arm and genetic testing pamphlets to take back to my office.

Ashley Lavore

Those next few weeks were torture. I was connected with a genetic counselor on the phone, who screened me and asked extensive family history information. She shared how uncommon testing positive for a BRCA mutation was and I felt very optimistic, until I received her next call:

“Well, Ashley, I wish I had some better news to share with you but unfortunately, you tested positive for BRCA 1 mutation. This mutation increases your chance of breast cancer to 80% and ovarian to more than 50%.”

After the news settled in, I started taking action with preventive measures, including annual MRI’s and 6 month ovarian screenings. In January I will be undergoing a preventive double mastectomy and even though I’m absolutely terrified, I’m also excited to beat my odds with new modern medicine and surgery.

Bright Pink has always been an organization that I was familiar with for women’s health.  I’ve always admired Lindsay Avner’s story of creating a non-profit organization after she struggled to find her own resources at a young age to survive the BRCA mutation. I’m not the biggest runner, but, I had never felt more excited or passionate when it came to running the Life Time 5K on September 24 for Bright Pink. To be a 26-year-old woman, who is healthy and cancer-free, I found it a privilege to run for women everywhere, especially women who have or had cancer or are BRCA positive.

I see this race as a way to restart and officially tackle the journey ahead of me. I know my journey is going to be a lot longer than 3.1 miles but I’m ready for it.

Ashley's & friends

I have been so inspired by everyone’s selflessness and dedication to raising funds for this cause so near and dear to me. From friends choosing to spend their Sunday running a 5K, to family and friends donating to my page, and to my father’s hardware store in New York whose employees worked tirelessly to donate from their own paycheck to support Bright Pink, just means so very much. Every dollar counts and I was so honored to raise these funds for a group that is so passionate about supporting women’s health.

The power of sharing your story is so incredibly important. In less than 48 hours of sharing my story, we successfully raised more than $7,000 for Bright Pink!

On Sunday, September 24, my team and I ran. We ran for all the women out there who have lost their lives to breast and/or ovarian cancer. We ran for women recovering on a couch this very moment because they chose a preventive surgery. We ran for women who are still grasping their diagnosis and finding the best plan of action for them. Funds raised will give the next person the opportunity to receive the best care and support as they navigate their own journey.

It’s incredibly important that these resources continue to be available to women everywhere.

As someone who was absolutely scared and put off genetic testing until I was 25, I understand the fear that comes along with it. I chose to undergo genetic testing when I was in the prime of my career, finally getting settled into my skin and embarking on a relationship with someone who has still stuck by me through my crazy rollercoaster of emotions. Basically, I received the heaviest but most important news of my life at the worst possible time. But I’ve learned life is still really great after finding out my news. I now get to take control and beat the odds of cancer. My biggest dream is to get married and have children. I couldn’t imagine having that dream get squashed or shortened because I didn’t have this information available to me to save my life.

If you are reading this and have family history with breast or ovarian cancer, please get tested. I get to keep my life and live it to the fullest. If anything, I say I’m pretty darn lucky.

Fall races are coming up! Whether it’s a turkey trot, marathon, or bike ride; it’s easy to support to Bright Pink!

Lauren Herzog and her mom
Early Detection, Personal Stories

Ovarian Cancer Whispers, So Listen

Play an active role in managing your ovarian health. Learn how you can be #OvarianSelfAware!

My mom’s first symptoms were back pain and heartburn. Her doctor told her to take some antacids and that was that. It wasn’t until a bit later that she started having to go to the restroom more frequently. Then abdominal pain woke her in the middle of the night, three nights in a row. While her first symptoms didn’t seem to signal anything serious, it was the sleep-disrupting abdominal pain that ultimately made her take notice and visit the doctor.

“I think mothers are those rare people who will listen to you talk about seemingly nothing for hours. At least, mine is! She’s really supportive, and I think we have more of a friendship now that I’m older.”

My mom and I had both had prior gynecologic surgeries. Unfortunately, they’re a little too commonplace in our family. So when she underwent surgery in 2011, I didn’t think much of it, but the doctors immediately knew it was ovarian cancer. Waiting after her operation to hear just how far the cancer had advanced was agonizing. When we finally got results, we learned she had Stage 1 ovarian cancer. Reflecting on this moment today, I realize how little I knew about cancer at the time – I didn’t even know there were different stages! And in my mom’s case, the stage her cancer was detected was key. In fact, it is likely what saved her life.

“It’s unusual for ovarian cancer to be detected that early. It’s kind of like what they always say about ovarian cancer… it whispers, so listen.”

Lauren and her mom in front of a Christmas tree

I was 11 years old when my grandmother passed away. But it wasn’t until after my mom’s diagnosis that I learned that my grandmother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer just three weeks prior to her death.

I began to connect the dots about what my strong family history of ovarian cancer meant for me and my health.

 “I know that I fall within the ‘increased risk’ category, but my risk feels even higher to me sometimes.”

This information, on top of my own history of gynecologic issues, led me to make some very important changes to my health and wellness.

I began by making changes to my lifestyle to reduce my risk. I changed my diet and became a vegetarian. It was a personal choice that has really helped me learn different healthy ways of cooking. I also make sure to stay on top of my workouts. In addition to eating healthy and working out, I monitor my gynecologic health with two ultrasounds a year, and while these aren’t to screen for ovarian cancer, it makes me comfortable knowing how closely my gynecologic health is being watched.

And finally, I surround myself with other young women who are advocating for their health through Bright Pink! Bright Pink is an organization that’s tackling the issues that are so often at the forefront of my mind. I’ve had a doctor say to me “You’re too young to have ovarian cancer, so we’ll rule that out,” despite knowing my family history! My mom has met many young ovarian cancer survivors; young women need this information, too!

“It was a breath of fresh air to find Bright Pink.”

This summer I graduated from Bright Pink University (BPU). The other ambassadors and I all had different motivations for going through training, and the diversity of experiences helped me grow. I’m really excited to get out into my local community to give Brighten Up presentations and start these conversations!

Lauren Herzog Bright Pink education ambassador

There are so many misconceptions about ovarian cancer and most women don’t know much about it. But it’s my own experiences with gynecologic issues that have made a strong impression on me. Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be really vague and hard to explain. In general, I’ve learned to be an advocate for myself and get a second opinion when the first one didn’t give me the answers I needed. It’s so important to push when you know something isn’t right, it can make all the difference – that’s what I want other young women to know!

Take control of your ovarian health like Lauren and be #OvarianSelfAware at BrightPink.org/OvarianSelfAware

Community

Announcing Our Brighten Up College Tour!

    aerie logo

Bright Pink and Zeta Tau Alpha are hitting the road to Brighten Up college campuses across the country by educating and empowering students to be proactive about their breast and ovarian health! Workshops will be proudly hosted by the school’s local Zeta Tau Alpha chapter. Aerie is also joining us for the ride to lead a wellness activity & provide fun freebies for all attendees. We invite students to join us for this interactive health experience on their very own campus. Attendees will walk away with life-saving knowledge to practice wellness and prevention.

See below for a list of campuses we’re visiting this fall. We hope to see you there!

Virginia Tech – COMPLETE!
September 19, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
Squires Student Center
Commonwealth Ballroom
290 College Ave., Room 225
Blacksburg, VA 24060

Baylor University – COMPLETE!
October 9, 2017 @ 7:00 PM
Fountain Mall
1325 S. 5th Street
Waco, TX 76706

University of Maryland – COMPLETE!
October 11, 2017 @ 7:00 PM
Adele H. Stamp Student Union
Grand Ballroom, Room 1206
3972 Campus Drive
College Park, MD 20742

University of Washington – RESCHEDULED
TBD

College of Charleston
TBD

P.S. – Want to bring a Brighten Up to YOUR college campus? Request a workshop here

Bright Pink founder, Lindsay Avner with Education Ambassadors Cailtin Lopez and Brittany Whitman
Personal Stories

A Bright Pink Education Ambassador’s Story: Caitlin Lopez

Interested in making a difference in the lives of young women? Become a Bright Pink Education Ambassador or PinkPal today. Read on for Cailtin Lopez’s story.

In my family, the only known case of breast cancer was my maternal grandmother when she was around 50 years old. She had a single mastectomy with no reconstruction and that was it. However, my gynecologist advised that I should consider genetic testing because of my family history of other cancers. My mother was tested first and when she received her results I immediately went in for testing. It was then that I discovered I am BRCA+.

I met with a genetic counselor and we discussed all of my options for prevention and early detection such as surveillance, medications, and surgery. She also introduced me to Bright Pink and suggested their PinkPal program which matches young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer with fellow high-risk individuals. I immediately reached out and received a PinkPal. I was partnered with a wonderful woman who had been in my exact situation. She helped me feel confident, answered all of my questions, and made me feel at ease. Cailtin Lopez with her Bright Pink T-shirt

After my PinkPal helped me realize that I would be OK, I made a decision and a life plan of what I would do in regards to my BRCA+ status; I went through with surgery. After I recovered, I decided I was ready to support others.

I received a PinkPal in 2013 and I became a PinkPal in early 2014. It was important for me to provide that comfort for other women that my PinkPal provided for me. It’s nice to know that you have a support group when you’re going through something that affects your life so much.

I wanted to continue my journey of volunteering with Bright Pink so I attended Bright Pink University, a training program for volunteers, in the summer of 2014. There I learned how to present the Brighten Up Educational Workshop, which is a 30-minute presentation that covers the basics of breast and ovarian health, introduces the idea of different lifetime risk levels, and provides early detection and prevention strategies.

Completing Bright Pink University was one of the greatest things I have ever done. Not only has it been beneficial for me, but for others in my family and community as well.

I remember being nervous while waiting to present my first Brighten Up Workshop. It was at St John’s University in Queens. The group was really positive and asked lots of great questions.  I’ll never forget that group – and I have educated new groups at St John’s University every year for the last three years. They always welcome me with open arms.

Being informed is an important factor in order to be in control of your health.  I am honored and happy to be a part of an organization, like Bright Pink, that helps empower people to be proactive and teach them to take knowledge and turn it into something wonderful.

Caitlin Lopez after presenting a Brighten Up Workshop

While a goal of mine is to educate as many women as possible, I’m a huge fan of smaller groups too, because women (and men) tend to ask more questions, share their stories, and feel more connected. I love the feeling of helping women understand that they have control over their health and can choose to be proactive.

Empowering women is something I am truly passionate about.

Becoming a Bright Pink ambassador has empowered me and I love the fact that I can help people dig into their family history and question their doctors. I always want to help others, especially women, and Bright Pink helps me accomplish this. My own family health history and personal genetics push me to help others realize that they are in control of their health and they don’t need to be afraid of their genetic testing results. I want everyone to know they can help themselves and their families and choose to be proactive.

 

Caitlin was inspired to volunteer with Bright Pink because of her genetic testing journey and her drive to empower others.  Find out how you can make a difference in the lives of young women. Become a Bright Pink Education Ambassador or PinkPal today.

 

 

Risk-Reduction Lifestyle

This Mother’s Day #GoAskYourMother

Bright Pink is committed to helping you become your own best advocate for your health. There are many things you can do to protect your health and discussing and understanding your family health history is one that is extremely important. Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 14 and Bright Pink wants you to #GoAskYourMother about your family health history.

Breast and ovarian cancer are often linked in families, collecting your history can help you understand where you fall on the risk spectrum.

1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime and 1 in 75 women will develop ovarian cancer. If there’s family history of these cancers the risk could be higher. Having one first degree relative with breast cancer can increase risk by twofold. Also, a genetic predisposition can increase breast cancer risk to up to 87% and ovarian cancer risk up to 54%.

We want you to use this Mother’s Day as an opportunity to begin an important dialogue with Mom (and ask Dad, too!)

Don’t know where to start? Bright Pink has you covered. In an effort to get this important conversation rolling we created a Family Health History form.

Help us spread the word! Snap a picture with Mom, tag Bright Pink, and use the hashtag #GoAskYourMother on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Visit GoAskYourMother.org for more details.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

Risk-Reduction Lifestyle, Video

What I Ate In A Day (to reduce my risk of breast & ovarian cancer)

 

What I Ate In A Day (to reduce my risk of breast & ovarian cancer) from Bright Pink on Vimeo.

Who knew that reducing your risk for breast and ovarian cancer could be so delicious? Bright Pink team member Cavya does, and she’s sharing her mouth-watering recipes below!

Bright Pink Smoothie Bowl

This super tasty smoothie bowl is a breeze to whip together and will probably make your Instagram dreams come true. And if that’s not enough to sell you, nutrient-packed ingredients like berries, tropical fruit, and flax seeds can help you lower your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. What more could you want?

Ingredients

  • Smoothie
    • ½ cup frozen strawberries
    • ¼ cup frozen raspberries
    • ½ cup greek yogurt
    • ½ cup almond milk
  • Toppings
    • ½ cup mango chunks
    • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
    • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
    • ¼ cup raspberries

Directions:

Blend together frozen berries, greek yogurt and almond milk into a thick smoothie. Pour into a bowl and top with the remaining ingredients. Feel like a goddess of health and wellness.

Vegan Lentil Curry with Brown Rice

This quick and simple curry packs in tons of protein and flavor and is the perfect go-to for #MeatlessMondays. Consuming high amounts of red meat has been proven to increase your risk of breast cancer, so cutting down whenever possible is always a great idea. Plus, a ton of these ingredients are on our cancer fighting grocery list

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp of fresh, minced ginger
  • 1 jalapeño, diced with seeds removed (optional)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chili pepper (optional)
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp whole or ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup brown rice

Directions:

Cook brown rice according to package directions. In a medium saucepan, saute onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño in olive oil until soft. Add in spices (mustard seeds, dried chili, turmeric, cumin and curry powder) and let them toast for about 30 seconds. Add in diced tomato, coconut milk, water, salt, pepper and lentils, simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and fully cooked. Add in baby spinach and stir. Serve over brown rice garnished with cilantro, a lime wedge, and a side of your favorite veggie.

We know you’ll love these delicious, risk-reducing recipes. If you try them out, make sure to post your finished product on Instagram and tag @BeBrightPink so we can ❤️️  your pic!

Personal Stories

“Running together is our therapy. Now we’re saving lives, too.”

I first heard about Bright Pink in 2007, when my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She mentioned her symptoms to her doctor (urinary changes, extensive bloating and feeling full), and he sent her home with heartburn medication. Sadly, she passed away two years later when she was only 56.

Bright Pink had fallen off my radar in recent years, but I got reacquainted in October 2016 when my cousin was hosting a KEEP Collective event. She knew my passion for breast and ovarian cancer education and invited me to partner with her in an online party where some of the KEEP items would go to benefit Bright Pink. While she showcased the sparkly goods, I used Bright Pink’s educational materials to teach the women in the party about their health.

Reconnecting with Bright Pink last October pushed me to get really familiar with Bright Pink’s education resources, and I was impressed.

Bright Pink is doing a great job putting out ready-to-share, useful resources, and that’s something I wanted to support.

I’m an avid runner, so joining Team Bright Pink for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon seemed like a natural next step!

After I made the decision to take on running and fundraising for Team Bright Pink, I decided to take the challenge one step further, and convince my friends to join me! Luckily, my friends don’t take much convincing! We all met each other through a running group, and running together is our sure-fire way to see each other. It’s our weekly therapy session and our excuse to travel together. I knew Kristin hadn’t done the Chicago Marathon yet, and I told her years ago I’d do it with her. I texted her and Nicole to see what they thought, and, by the end of the day, Renee and Diana had signed up too.

I have incredible friends. Even without having substantial ties to breast or ovarian cancer, or any awareness of Bright Pink, they jumped right in and pledged to fundraise. Just like that!

It isn’t always easy to stay motivated to train for our runs, and to be honest, we don’t do “motivation” very well. We’re great at complaining, whining, cussing and plotting how to get out of the next race. Despite that, we’re all running obsessed and will sign up for another race as soon as someone sends out a text.

I am so thrilled to be taking on this challenge with all my best friends for Bright Pink. I see it as my duty to educate my family and friends about ovarian cancer and listening to their bodies, so everyone has a better chance of an early diagnosis. Running the Chicago Marathon on Team Bright Pink is a way for all of us to spread Bright Pink’s life-saving message to even more women.


Are you inspired by Amy and her amazing friends? Join Team Bright Pink for the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, or one of many other races!

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