Too many cancers are called the "silent killer" because so many of them show very little symptoms before diagnosis. Often, by then, it's too late.
It was six years ago that Fitchburg resident Jan McNally, then 44, saw the doctor about long-term symptoms. Doctors chose to look into her situation, and what was expected to be an exploratory surgery turned out to be ovarian cancer.
"I had told my kids, it was going to be a very simple, one-day surgery. I'd be home for dinner and everything would be fine," said McNally, "Well when he got in there, he realized my ovary was actually encapsulated with the cancer."
Jan was fortunate, in that she had a curable form of the disease with a very small likelihood of it metastasizing or recurring. She was able to beat the disease with the help of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center Gynecologic Oncology program, and five years later wanted to take her fight one step further.
"I was like, wait a minute there's a reason I've been given this gift, of actually being able to survive," she said.
McNally came up with the idea to start the Whisper Walk, to raise funds and awareness, and teach other women that ovarian cancer is not the "silent killer." Instead, she says, it has symptoms that whisper.
"They're not silent anymore. They've determined that they do whisper, so it's hard to figure out what they are actually indicating. Very few people know what the symptoms of ovarian cancer are, that's why it's important to spread the word about the subtle symptoms," Jan said.
Her first annual Whisper Walk at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg on Sept. 22 drew more than 400 participants.
She's also a member of the organizing committee for the fifth annual Sparkle Of Hope event, a fundraiser for the UW Carbone Cancer Center's Gynecologic Oncology Program scheduled for Thursday night at the Concourse Hotel.
In four short years since its inception, the benefit has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars in the fight against cancers that one in 20 women will face in their lifetime.
Jan hopes to make everyone aware of the whispers by speaking up.
"It's empowering women to be aware of what their body is telling them," Jan said.
To learn more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, visit the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer website.
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