The backlot at was bustling with activity this cloudy and cool Sunday morning—the gloom seeming appropriate for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite the chill and early hour, an estimated 2,000 people of all ages gathered to check in for the Most wore for ovarian cancer. They carried teal balloons and large photos of loved ones lost too soon.
In stark contrast to the milling crowd in pretty shades of blue were 120 young men and women of the U.S. Army dressed in brown and gray desert fatigues standing at attention in strict linear formation. They were the soldiers from the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion in Encino.
“Cancer is an individual’s personal war on terror,” said Army Specialist Jeff Baker—the runner's number pinned to his back was 911. “I’m proud to be marching in this event,” added Baker, who lost a grandparent to lung cancer.
This year marks the 13th Run/Walk fundraiser held by the Ovarian Cancer Coalition of California founded by Studio City resident and cancer survivor She celebrated 22 years of being cancer-free last month () Proceeds from the event are specifically earmarked for the Valley Women’s Clinic and the ovarian cancer research centers at USC Norris, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UCLA.
“I think today is a day of remembrance for the soldiers, their brothers and sisters they lost in the war and for family members and friends who lost loved ones to cancer,” McKenna said.
A group of 20 runners outfitted in matching teal shirts printed with the words, "In Memory of Kelly Condran" comprised TEAM KELLY. They were there to run for their friend and family member who died in April at age 41. Her diagnosis came too late—just 10 months before her death. As is often the case with ovarian cancer, her symptoms were misdiagnosed and mistaken for a more common ailment.
“The doctors initially thought it was nothing, then maybe endometriosis or a cyst—she finally went in for a routine surgery—that’s when they found the cancer,” said Condran’s younger sister, Michelle Lewis.
According to the American Cancer Society, of the 22,000 women in the United States who will be diagnosed this year, approximately 70 percent will die of the disease. If caught early, however, the five-year survival rate is 94 percent.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer include indigestion, gas, nausea, abdominal bloating or pain, unusual fatigue and an unexplained change in bowel habits. There is no conclusive test yet available but it is recommended that a woman get a CA-125 blood test and a trans-vaginal sonogram if she has one or more symptoms or has a family history with the disease.
Sharon Carol, 52, wore a sign on her back that read "I’m a survivor." Exactly one year ago she was having stomach pain that wouldn’t go away but still thought it might be constipation. Her doctors immediately suspected ovarian cancer. Carol underwent surgery and then chemotherapy. She has been cancer-free for four months.
McKenna said, “Hopefully, we’ve raised some awareness today, more women will know about the signs of ovarian cancer. Hopefully, we’ll never have to do this again because we’re going to find a cure!”
Despite the day's somber aspects, McKenna and her team managed to stage an event that was also uplifting and hopeful. A health fair was set up along the studio’s Main Street with eager vendors handing out informational pamphlets, advice and free drinks. Raffle tickets were sold out for prizes that included airline tickets and salon visits.
Actor Dominic Keating, best known for his portrayal of Lt. Malcolm Reed on the television series Star Trek Enterprise, was on hand to sign autographs and pose for pictures. DJs from country music radio station 105-FM blasted upbeat music.
After presenting McKenna and her volunteers with plaques of appreciation and wowing the crowd with a few synchronized warm-up calisthenics, the soldiers of the 425th Battalion dutifully led the runners and walkers out into the streets of Studio City with flags and grandeur.