As her mother fought a valiant battle against ovarian cancer, Jodie Kavensky vowed to do for ovarian cancer what the Susan G. Komen Foundation did for breast cancer.
When her mother lost the fight in 2008, the NormaLeah Foundation was born. It is named for Kavensky’s mother, Norma Yecies Shagrin, and her late aunt, Leah Yecies Hantman.
Kavensky, of Rock Island, created the grassroots organization to raise awareness of ovarian cancer’s symptoms and to take the silence out of the disease.
“Sisters share a lot of things but ovarian cancer should not be one of them,” she said.
To help protect other women from the deadly disease, the NormaLeah Foundation wants to make the Quad-Cities awash in teal — the color for ovarian cancer awareness — during the month of September. Part of the organization’s BEAT the Big O campaign, the TealTown September events coincide with the observance of National Ovarian Cancer Month.
The month will kick off Sept. 4 with Teal Tuesday, a day in which the Quad-City community is encouraged to wear teal.
Area businesses can join the effort by displaying a “Tagged Teal” window cling that the group has produced that promotes the symptoms to be aware of. In addition, some of the area’s prominent buildings have agreed to illuminate teal lighting for the month.
On Sept. 29, NormaLeah Foundation will host its second annual gala “A Night to BEAT the Big O” at Crow Valley Golf Club, Davenport. Tickets are $50 and the evening will include food, entertainment, a silent auction, raffles, and a chance to Shop TealBling.
“Many women believe a pap smear detects ovarian cancer, but it doesn’t,” Kavensky said. In 2011, more than 22,000 American women were diagnosed with the disease and about 13,500 died from it.
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Kavensky, who has been an active community volunteer for the arts and tourism, said NormaLeah Foundation’s first major awareness effort has been a BEAT the Big O mirror tag, a small card that lists the symptoms which make the acronym BEAT. The symptoms are: Bloating that is persistent; Eating less, feeling fuller; Abdominal pain; and Trouble with bladder and bowels.
“Our BEAT mirror card teaches and empowers women to recognize early warning signs,” she said.
The group has been reaching out to health organizations and businesses with primarily women clientele to distribute the cards. Volunteers also will be handing them out during the East Moline Labor Day Parade on Sept. 3.
“We know there is no test that will definitively find ovarian cancer until it is in the late stages. So we feel the best thing we can do is get to the street level and let women know about it,” she said.
The group has partnered with Cancer Can Kiss My A** on the window clings project and also is partnering with KWQC-TV anchor Paula Sands, who is battling ovarian cancer, to raise awareness. “We couldn’t let Paula Sands fight this alone,” she said.
According to Kavensky, the proceeds from the upcoming gala will help produce another 100,000 Beat mirror cards.