By Aaron Blevins, 11/01/2012
Upcoming event to raise money for ovarian cancer research
When Kelli Sargent’s mother, Nanci, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2000, it became evident that the family needed to raise awareness about the disease. When Nanci died in 2008, it became imperative that the family spread that awareness across the country and abroad.
That is the push behind Run For Her, a 5k run/walk that began in 2005 as part of a partnership between organizers and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The 2012 installment will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Nov. 11.
“Important would put it lightly. It’s something that has been a passion of mine ever since the beginning,” Sargent, a Calabasas resident, said. “When my mom was diagnosed … the first thing that came to my mind and my mom’s was, how do we get awareness out about this disease and raise money.”
Being diagnosed with ovarian cancer is half the battle, she said. Sargent said its symptoms are vague and resemble symptoms from other diseases.
“A woman cannot go to her doctor and say, ‘Test me for ovarian cancer’,” Sargent said.
When Nanci was diagnosed, she had already fought lymphoma, so the possibility of another cancer did not cross the family’s mind. Her symptoms were non-life threatening, such as bloating and constipation. Sargent said her doctors initially did not know what the origin of her problems were.
However, when diagnosed early, the chances for survival are “really, really strong,” she said. Less than 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases, though, are caught in the early stages, Sargent said. Her mother was diagnosed in 2000 with stage three ovarian cancer.
“We need a test, and we need a cure,” Sargent added. “At the same time, awareness is what’s saving lives. That’s our biggest defense right now.”
And that’s where Run For Her comes in. The run/walk started after Sargent approached officials at Cedars-Sinai, where her mother had received “tremendous” care from gynecological oncologist Dr. Beth Karlan.
“I just thought it was a no-brainer in where I wanted the money to go,” she said.
Though organizers of the event were simply striving to do something supportive for ovarian cancer patients, Run For Her became Cedars-Sinai’s signature community event, Sargent said. Nanci participated for the first three years, crossing the finish line in all three.
“She was kind of like our spokesperson the first few years,” Sargent added.
She said that after her mother died, organizers tried to retain what Nanci contributed to the event: a personal feel with attention to minor details. But then, the event grew. Approximately 700 people attended the first Run For Her, compared to 5,000 in 2011.
“It really became bigger than what we started at the kitchen table together,” Sargent said. “We just had this moment where … this is real.”
The event expanded out of Cedars-Sinai’s parking lot and into Pan Pacific Park. Last year’s Run For Her raised $750,000, which goes directly to the hospital’s Women’s Cancer Program, where Nanci was treated.
Some of the funding is used for research to find a cure and test. It also purchases lab equipment at the medical center. Sargent said federal grants sometime subsidize such research, but it can be restrictive. She said the nonprofit money gives researchers at Cedars-Sinai the freedom to do what they feel is needed.
“The Women’s Cancer Program is unique in the sense that, not only do they treat patients, but they also do the research in the labs,” Sargent added.
She said the effort to organize the run/walk is worth it, as it may inevitably help other families from managing such an ordeal. It also helps honor her mother, a Santa Monica resident who had three children.
“She’s someone who embraced life to its fullest and was the epitome of a best friend,” Sargent said. “She smiled all the time, and she was always making sure everybody else was feeling good and comfortable. [She was] one of the strongest people I ever met.”
For information or to participate, call (323)866-6410, or visit www.runforher.com.