They're out to make a difference while raising awareness of ovarian cancer.
The Teal Team, made up mostly of Estevan and area walkers, will be heading to Regina Sept. 9 to participate in the Walk of Hope that will start from the Rick Hanson Centre.
The walkers will include Estevan ovarian cancer survivor Mary Antonenko and her good friend's husband, Leonard Drebnicki, who is willing to let his long hair be shaved off that day in exchange for more pledges that will lead to more education, early detection and treatment of women who have been challenged with this disease. Mary and Leonard's wife Stacey formed a friendship through their membership in the Estevan Quota Club.
Antonenko, who overcame huge odds to beat her cancer that was first diagnosed in December of 2010, is leading the Estevan contingent. A couple of Regina-based women, who have been involved in that city's annual Walk of Hope, were moved enough by her story to make the trip to Estevan to help raise awareness with a media conference and education afternoon in the Estevan Shoppers Mall last Thursday.
“Our team has raised over $5,000,” said Antonenko and most of that was gained through small individual and business donations.
“We've done it through straight pledges, sale of keychains and cookbooks and our team provided security at the Speedway one night in exchange for a pledge,” she said.
The 22-member Teal Warrior team includes people from Manitoba and Moose Jaw who are joining the Estevan group in Regina.
Drebnicki will have his head shaved at the end of the walk.
Antonenko said she had to take her six extreme chemo treatments of six to seven hours each in Regina following a couple of surgeries for her Stage 4 cancer. Because the survival rate of those in advanced stages is not that good, she must make frequent return trips to see cancer specialists. So far, so good.
This will be just the third walk staged in Regina for the cause. There is another in Saskatoon that same day. This year the Saskatchewan walk has attained official national status. The official national walk, held in Toronto, will be in its 10th year.
Ann Chase, a director on the board of Ovarian Cancer Canada, is a 14-year survivor and she admitted, “there are not a lot of us around, so it's my job to help other survivors and keep raising awareness because if it isn't diagnosed until Stage 3 or 4, the chance of survival is around 15 per cent. If it can be detected at Stage 1, the survival rate is better, at between 70 and 80 per cent,” Chase said. “So you see where Mary is our rock star here.
“But there is still no early detection test. They're still working on developing a good test so until they do, it's very important to have the awareness programs out there. We have two of them at work. One is known as Knowledge is Power for well women to give them information and the other is for the education of the medical community itself, to help them better understand and detect this cancer.”
Chase added, “they're trying different chemo therapies, but there's not a lot of progress being made in saving lives, so that keeps me going.”
Rita Grant, national co-chairwoman for the Walk of Hope, said the Regina event will begin around 1:20 p.m. on Sept. 9. There will be musical entertainment provided during the registration period and the walkers will include some recent survivors who will be embarking on a shorter walk while the others will take out on either a 2.5 km or five km course from the Hanson Centre. After the walk, “Leonard will have his hair cut, there will be a story from a survivor and Dr. L. Hickie will talk to us a bit about treatments for ovarian cancer and we'll gather information from other fundraisers and give out prizes for the three top fundraising teams from our walk,” said Grant.
“Last year Regina's walk raised $53,000 and $2.7 million was made Canada-wide. There are now 45 official Walks of Hope across Canada, so it's growing,” she said. There are just the two walks in Saskatchewan.
“My sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2008, so when I went out there to get information they directed me to Ann (Chase) and I've been involved ever since. I lost my sister to this disease this year, so as co-chair, I'm so happy to see we've graduated to national walk status this year. The loss of my sister brought me to this point where I want to see better education for women in recognizing the symptoms. We need an early detection tool for the medical community. There isn't one yet and it's just too hard to beat once it gets to Stages 3 or 4,” said Grant.
She said often an early sign of ovarian cancer is mis-diagnosed as something else, which is what happened in her sister's case. By the time a correct diagnosis can be made, the cancer will have advanced, making the chances of survival more remote.
“We need to beat it,” she said in conclusion.