My friend Alison Devenny, board member of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) and founder of its Junior Committee, recently hosted a Zumba workout class to raise awareness about OCNA and its mission to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments, and a cure.
Alison is an intelligent, caring, and driven woman who first got involved with OCNA when friend and mentor, Judy Abrams was looking for a way to increase the involvement of young people with the organization. Knowing that it could be a powerful tool, Alison started the Junior Committee with the charge of bringing on members of the Millennial Generation and having them be an active force within the organization. They started with a small group of young professionals with a passion for philanthropy and now have a group of 30 active members who have planned more than 15 charity events including walks, galas, shopping nights and fitness events in New York City.
With the success of the Junior Committee, Alison was asked to join the Board of Directors in 2010 as their youngest member ever. She now has the unique experience of leading the Junior Committee in New York and working as a member of the board focusing on fundraising and advocacy on a national level. Through her work, Alison says she is continually inspired by the passion and grace of the ovarian cancer survivors she meets and the community of leaders and advocates who work on the behalf of women everywhere.
All in all, I am inspired by Alison and the work she does on behalf of OCNA. I invite you to check out the Junior Committee’s website for upcoming events and ways to get involved.
Ovarian Cancer National Alliance:
Based in Washington DC, The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is a patient-led, umbrella organization uniting ovarian cancer activists, women’s health advocates and health care professionals in the effort to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments and a cure. Key activities include an annual national conference, a public education program targeted to women and primary care physicians, and training programs to help survivors become effective advocates and spokespeople for the disease.
- Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest gynecological cancer. There is no cure and no early detection test. There are symptoms and understanding these symptoms is a powerful tool for women to protect themselves.
- The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 15,500 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States.
- While the 10th most common cancer among women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers. Mortality rates are slightly higher for Caucasian women than for African-American women.1
- A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 72.
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
While most women will experience these symptoms at some point in their lives. Women are encouraged to consult their doctor if they experience any of the above symptoms for a period of more than two weeks.
My extremely caring friend, Gesche, recently introduced me to the Somaly Mam Foundation. She became aware of the organization after reading Somaly Mam’s biography, Road of Lost Innocence, recounting the horrors of being sold into sex slavery in Cambodia.
The Somaly Mam Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending modern day slavery and empowering its survivors as part of the solution. The Foundation also runs awareness and advocacy campaigns that shed light on the crime of human trafficking, spotlight its brave survivors of living examples of change, and focus on getting the public and governments involved in the fight to abolish modern day slavery.
Gesche has been committed to supporting the organization here in New York City and recently took a 10-day, 280 mile bike tour across Cambodia to visit the shelters that Somaly Mam has created. Throughout her trip with 20 like-minded individuals, Gesche learned that – in Somaly’s words – “love can make change.” Gesche believes that it is our personal duty to ensure that we ourselves are happy and appreciative of the many blessings we have – and then to take this positive energy and do good with it.
And that she did – in her adventurous style - Gesche hosted a Stiletto Workout Class to spread awareness about Somaly Mam and get her best girlfriends into shape.
The class was held at NDG Fit in Chelsea and taught by Nicole Damaris who founded the boutique women’s fitness studio. Admittedly, because of hip issues, I could not partake in the class in stilettos but did my best to make up for my balance advantage in my sneakers. After a short warm up, we got right into balance and counterbalance work. Lateral leg lifts. Grand battement devant. Passe to back attitude. Parallel passe to turned out passe. It was extremely fast paced. It was extremely tough. Even in flats. And the only respite were the thousands of squats – which we did in every position.
I can see how the workout sculpts and shapes but I found it very dangerous at the speed we were going and I can’t imagine how much more difficult it must have been in heels. It really can’t be very safe for the joints.
That said, I was happy to be there with a group of women dedicated to a cause and taking control of their bodies through this group workout. I am all about positivity and support among women and Gesche gave us an avenue for both.
All in all, I thank my lucky stars for all that I am able to do and for the opportunity to be a strong woman with a network of generous and empowered women in my life.
Somehow, I got the name of a “rolfer,” which – rolfing being one of the only treatments I have left to try to heal or at least give relief to my ailing body – I was happy to get a recommendation and give it a try.
Rolfing is a form of body work that supposedly “reorganizes the connective tissues called ‘fascia’ that permeate the entire body.” Like acupuncture, chiropractic, and physical therapy, there is no real proof that it really works. But also, like those treatments, if you believe your body is a life force, a tangle of nerves, or a group of muscles that are not strong enough, that need to be recentered, re-aligned, or retrained, then you’re likely to believe that you’re doing the right thing for your body.
In my case, I felt that I needed to get alignment back by loosening the muscles that have tightened up due to old age, resisting the urge to stretch for fear that it would hurt more than I already hurt, and fixing my gait so that I break the cycle of my poor alignment and the ensuing tightening of the muscles.
I spent my first session clenching my jaw as my spine and other points were massaged from below as I lay on my back. It was a weightlessly comfortable massage and yet seemingly pressurized and right to the point. I could feel the effect of each touch on another part of my body, releasing tension and bringing home the point that everything is connected. As I write this, I am feeling a bit of relief along with a bit soreness…
All in all, I look forward to seeing how I feel in the next few days and after my next session.