I recently was introduced to a local mom who has turned a sad situation into saving lives. I wanted to share her inspiring story and help spread awareness to other women on a type of cancer that could target any of us.
When Nicole Cundiff’s mom, Colleen, lost her battle with ovarian cancer, Nicole and her sisters took action by starting a charity in her honor, Colleen’s Dream.
Why did you want to start a charity?
My mom was diagnosed with the disease in 2007, which completely floored us because she had always been healthy, active and vibrant. Unfortunately, when she started experiencing all the classic symptoms, she had 3 different doctors miss her diagnosis and tell her that her stomach pain and bloating were due to IBS or Diverticulitis. It wasn’t until she received a CT Scan that they discovered her ovarian cancer. By the time she was diagnosed, her disease had progressed to the point that her doctors were telling us to say goodbye.
We were always the type to turn a bad situation into something meaningful, so my sisters, mom and I started throwing fundraisers to raise money for research and to educate people on the signs and symptoms of the disease. My husband Billy and I eventually decided to formalize our fundraising efforts, building Colleen’s Dream Foundation in the fall of 2012.
What do you think women need to know about ovarian cancer?
Women need to know that ovarian cancer can strike at any age. While it generally affects women over the age of 50, we know many young women who have been impacted by the disease. Women also need to know there is no early detection screening tool, which is why ovarian cancer often does not get diagnosed until its in a later stage, making ovarian cancer the deadliest gynecological cancer. The classic signs are pelvic pain, back pain, fatigue, frequency of urination and changes in bowel habits. If these symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks or 12 times in a month, a woman should see her gynecologist and request a CA-125 blood test and pelvic ultrasound. It is also important that women know their family history and explore genetic counseling and possible testing.
You are a mom of three, how do you juggle home life and the charity?
Constant scheduling and checking my calendar on my iPhone. I can’t live without it. Certain times of the year, balance can be tough, but thankfully I have an amazing nanny, Emily, who is always here for me, Billy and the kids. Since my mom passed away, we have to rely on other people to help out with our kids when we can’t be there. Thankfully the kids understand our passion and are so proud of what we are doing in their Gigi’s honor. We eat dinner as a family most evenings and try to make sure that one of us is always at the kids’ practices and games. It is a tough balance and there are days where I feel like I am failing at everything, but my kids are happy and healthy and the foundation is growing, so I don’t want to be greedy and ask for more than that!