As scientists, research trainees, and specialists gathered in Edmonton for the Canadian Conference on Ovarian Cancer Research, women and their families came from near and far to attend a concurrent workshop focused on survivorship. It featured a full day of presentations on promising research as well as practical insights on the journey with this disease.
Members of the Saskatchewan Ovarian Cancer Survivors group travelled across the provincial border to attend. Ten of them piled into a van for the journey, some from as far as Regina, Saskatchewan. In all, it was an 11-hour trip to Edmonton, including stopovers and three pick-up points.
“It meant a lot that we were all together for so much time in that van, just bonding, singing and laughing all the way in,” says Anne Chase, a powerhouse volunteer who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1998.
At the Survivorship Workshop, these women and families met up with the members of their support group who flew into town or drove in separately, and they connected with dozens of others who were personally affected by ovarian cancer.
One women who was unable to attend is known to many as @Flowergirl, volunteer moderator of the OVdialogue online community for women with this disease. As a gesture of support on behalf of OVdialogue and a local support group, she arranged to send each workshop participant a handwritten message of hope and a packet of tea.
“It was my way of inviting those women to join me on the OVdialogue site for Teal Tuesdays at 7 p.m. CST,” says @Flowergirl. Her care packages were distributed before the workshop to the delight of participants.
“To know that she thought to do this for us, when she is also going through ovarian cancer, really made us feel special,” says Joanne Duval, a woman from Peace River, Alberta who was diagnosed in September 2017.
Throughout the day, workshop participants heard directly from researchers about the latest developments. Presentation topics ranged from immunotherapy, which is a treatment that uses a body’s own immune system to target cancer cells, to studies underway to determine the role of lifestyle factors in outcomes.
“When you are given a diagnosis like this you go through a roller coaster of emotions, everything comes crashing down one minute and then you have the world by its tail the next,” says Joanne of her experience. “But the information from the conference was very detailed, and the researchers made it easier to understand the science behind cancer. Everyone just made themselves so available.”
At lunchtime, attendees were joined by teams of researchers and trainees. While they got to know one another, they heard a panel discussion about survivorship and its many ups and downs.
“The women I spoke with were so impressed to sit in the same room and see people who are working every day to save lives,” recalls Anne. “And the researchers got to see us and really put a face to the very women they are working to help.”
Dr. Barbara Vanderhyden, Corinne Boyer Chair in Ovarian Cancer Research at the University of Ottawa and founder of the conference, has this to say, “I am very proud of our Canadian research community – they have made most of the major discoveries about ovarian cancer in the past decade and many are recognized as international leaders in the field. The conference has long been a unique opportunity for these researchers and women living with ovarian cancer to meet face-to-face. It brings special meaning to what we do, because we’re working hard in our labs every day, for you and for women everywhere.”
With Ovarian Cancer Canada as lead sponsor of the Canadian Conference on Ovarian Cancer, your donations helped convene this meeting of the minds. To further support Canada’s leading researchers and important events like this one, register and fundraise for the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope.