SOURCE: Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance

Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance

September 15, 2015 13:24 ET

Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance Honors Its Founders and Celebrates 10 Years of Achievements at the Teal Gala

DENVER, CO--(Marketwired - Sep 15, 2015) - The final wish of Nicki Stoner, who lost her fight against ovarian cancer 10 years ago, was that the support group that helped her continue to help other women faced with this deadly diagnosis. Before her passing, Stoner requested family and friends make donations to keep that support group going. That one caring wish resulted in the birth of the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA), a Colorado nonprofit that has gone on to help hundreds of women struck by ovarian cancer. Stoner's husband and daughter worked with Susan Hess, the support group's dedicated counselor, to utilize the $7,000 in donations to start COCA. The non-profit, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, has grown into an organization that now assists ovarian cancer survivors and their families with support and education programs including a grant program that provides financial assistance to low income women during treatment and an educational outreach effort that brings survivors to medical schools to teach aspiring doctors about the real story behind the sneaky, deadly disease of ovarian cancer. Lovingly re-named Nicki's Circle, Stoner's one original support group has grown into four groups throughout the Front Range plus two telephone support groups.

While there is still much to do in the fight against ovarian cancer, which lacks an accurate screening test, great strides have been made for the women suffering from the disease by committed survivors and loved ones like Stoner's family. Mary Phillips, COCA's board president, is amazed at the growth she's seen since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer ten years ago. "Women with this disease have not had enough places to go for information and support. COCA now provides them a safe haven in the storm. I've learned so much and received a great deal of comfort during the nine years I've been attending Nicki's Circle."

In celebration of the organization's 10-year anniversary, COCA will host its annual "Teal Gala" on Thursday, October 8, 2015. The Gala takes place in the Grand Ballroom of the Denver Athletic Club. Dr. Kian Behbahkt, who has devoted his professional career to the care of women with ovarian cancer, will be the keynote speaker. Mistress of ceremonies for the evening will be Theresa Marchetta of Denver's 7NEWS, who was touched by ovarian cancer when her sister passed away at age 34. Tickets for the Gala are available at http://colo-ovariancancer.org/event-1970491/Registration.

COCA's founders continue to be actively involved and are pleased with the organization's direction and many successes. Stoner's daughter, Katie Fox, is vice president of COCA's board of directors as well as a successful Denver attorney and the owner/operator of a part-time floral design business for weddings and special events. She is amazed by the growth and development of the organization since it received the $7,000 endowment honoring her mother.

"Under COCA's direction, Nicki's Circle has significantly expanded its outreach and the number of women it serves, which I know would make my mother happy," Fox stated. "Additionally, the staff and volunteers have worked hard to educate Colorado women about the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency or frequency. Since there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, early detection of these symptoms really is critical to saving lives."

Susan Hess, MA, LPC, who was the counselor for Stoner's original support group and who volunteered as a board member during COCA's first years, currently serves as the organization's Program Director and continues to facilitate the Nicki's Circle Support and Information Groups. The groups are open to women with all gynecologic cancers and their caregivers. Participants exchange information about current medical research and how women can effectively advocate to obtain the best health care possible. Women also share the emotional ups and downs of a cancer diagnosis.

Hess is a strong advocate for programs that support women who have cancer. "In 2012 we created COCACares, a small assistance fund to help women in Colorado who find themselves in a situation of critical financial need due to the hardship of their ovarian cancer diagnosis," said Hess. "Through these grants, COCA has aided dozens of women by paying their bills for expenses like rent, mortgage, medical insurance premiums, groceries, utilities and medical bills."

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, a month-long effort to increase education and raise awareness of the diseases. Activities kicked off with national Wear Teal Day on Friday, September 4, 2015. Ovarian cancer survivors, their family members, friends and co-workers wore teal and decorated their houses and yards in the color to heighten awareness of ovarian cancer. To learn more about COCA and its programs, visit www.colo-ovariancancer.org.