April 7, 2013

Tree of Hope Angels: Ovarian Cancer



My March tree of hope recognition honors not a tree but Tree of Hope Angels. The hope angels are a project of Hope For Heather, an Ovarian Cancer Awareness not-for-profit New York corporation in Central New York, Syracuse, Liverpool, Baldwinsville, Utica, Oswego, Cortland.

Ovarian cancer has entered my life at least twice.
First, my good friend Shirl Murray died of ovarian cancer.
I met Shirl when we moved to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, in 1968. She, her husband Wayne, and her two young teens, Mark and Diane, moved into the community at the same time.
Soon she became a sister to me and an aunt to my children, since I had no family in our new community.
If we wanted to go out it didn’t matter if one of us lacked the funds. The other would cover. Hers was the home where my children would go if an emergency occurred, and so she invited them to stay overnight frequently.
We began a small herb and spice business while I was in Atlanta. It was a prelude to my craft business.
I was with Shirl, ushering with at the Alliance Theater, when I fell down the marble steps and broke my leg. She was there when my son Nolan had an emergency appendectomy and Monte was away preaching. It was Shirl who cared for Nolan when he recovered sufficiently for me to travel to Buffalo to attend my niece’s wedding.
When Shirl succumbed quickly to a late diagnosed ovarian cancer I was unable to travel to Atlanta for her funeral. I never had a chance to say a proper farewell to her, so I write this to honor her memory.

My second contact with ovarian cancer occurred through a friend, the late Jane (Penny) Miller, in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.
Penny, diagnosed with and battling ovarian cancer, was award of the benefits of meeting with other ovarian cancer victims. It was difficult for her and others to drive to Pittsburgh to attend a group there, so she asked me to facilitate a local support group. I unenthusiastically agreed.


Hope for Heather was formed in memory of Heather Weeks, who lost her life to cancer at age 24. Heather was an advocate for women’s cancer and committed to raising funds to find a cure. She had a dream: to educate all women on the major symptoms of Ovarian Cancer.
This corporation’s mission is to raise funds to support ovarian cancer research, to promote education and awareness, and to help to provide comfort to women and their families devastated by cancer.
The Hope for Heather also sponsors a Teal Ribbon 5K Run&Walk.
According to their web site, Ovarian Cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers in the United States and the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American Women. Each year, approximately 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 15,000 women die of the disease. In 2008, it is estimated that 21,650 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 15,520 women will die from the disease.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are very vague; making it difficult to diagnose. Only 19% of ovarian cancers are caught before cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region. When it is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
Penny, at age 50, described her ordeal as “being every ovarian cancer victim’s story….I’m not special or unique.”
Personal illness was foreign for Penny Miller, formerly a registered nurse who never missed work in ten years.
However, on January 26, 2000, Penny felt ill enough to leave work. Her husband said she vomited and had difficulty breathing, and by the 29th her body was swollen.
Following ominous tests she received the news: she had four grapefruit size tumors on her ovaries plus abdominal, liver and heart tumors. She was experiencing stage four cancer.
Her doctor told her she’d better get her stuff in order.
Penny explained that ovarian cancer, typically symptom-less until stage four, is nicknamed the “whispering disease.” Her routine medical exams showed no problems
“Women really have to listen for it,” she said. “The symptoms are so vague they sneak up on you and grab you. And women don’t have to have all the symptoms.”
She didn’t pick up on the signs: she excused her sore muscles and constant backache, considering it normal for lifting 200-pound people. Her weight jumped 70-pounds in six-weeks.
P1120584-AHer doctors performed a hysterectomy and removed some liver, her appendix, six liters of abdominal fluid and what abdominal cancer they could, and restructured her bowels after removing a piece—tumors were intertwined in the bowel.
She suffered through experimental chemotherapy and regular bloodstream chemotherapy, each requiring three-day hospital stays. For eleven months she couldn’t get out of bed—she had no strength whatsoever. Eventually she lost her hair.
“Penny is Penny no matter,” he said, “but it hurt me to shave me to shave her head. It really bothered me.” Penny ultimately succumbed to ovarian cancer.

I’m certain that Shirl and Penny would support the efforts of Hope for Heather.
But most of all, I’m certain that, if any life is saved by any education through them, or if early diagnostic tests for ovarian cancer were developed, or a cure found, they will be in heaven cheering loudly.
On their behalf pass this blog post on to all your female family and friends. Help make them aware that ovarian cancer is a whispering disease. They should become aware of victim’s stories and do whatever they are motivated to do to work towards a cure.

The Tree of Hope angels are Handmade from recycled biodegradable fibers and embedded with seeds, the small paper Angels will grow wildflowers. Soak it for a day, then cover with 1/4 inch of soil, either indoors in a pot, or directly in your garden. Water often, until the seeds germinate in about 2 weeks. The paper will recycle into the soil as the seeds burst into beautiful flowers.

Hope for Heather Contact Information:
PO Box 2208
Liverpool, NY 13089
General Questions – email:

Personal files


1 Comment »

  1. Do you think that there will be a new cancer treatment in the near future?

    I dont mean a cure, but maybe a drug that stops the spread and
    turns cancer into a chronic disease instead of an eventual death sentence?
    Do you think this is in the near future?

    Comment by Phil Powell — May 29, 2013 @ 11:50 am | Reply

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