Bethany Diamond returned from a ski trip with her husband, son, and daughter in 2000 to find one of her best friends in the hospital with ovarian cancer.
Diamond’s relationship with Debbie Flamm, whom she had known since college, was one of those close friendships where it wasn’t unusual for them to chat on the phone every night while making dinner.
But she was unable to help her friend, who died three years later from the disease, which is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women. Through the loss, Diamond discovered the lack of a test to detect the disease early.
As a longtime fitness instructor, Diamond decided to create a nonprofit that would focus on ovarian cancer while encouraging people to get fit through cycling—an idea that would combine her passion with her grief. “If we can get a program that brings more people to fitness and raise money for funding this research of ovarian cancer, then we’re doing a plus-plus,” she says.
Ovarian cancer occurs in about one out of every sixty-nine women, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. The American Cancer Society estimates that nearly 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and more than 15,000 women will die from the disease a year.
Since there is no effective means of early detection, ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 30 percent of women survive longer than five years, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Only 19 percent of cases are diagnosed in the early stages, before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region. If ovarian cancer is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is 93 percent.
“I do this because I lost my friend Debbie, but I have a daughter,” Diamond says, of Brooke, who is seventeen. “She needs this test. This disease is so hard to diagnose.”
Ovarian Cycle has raised more than $300,000 since it was founded in 2004, mostly through the proceeds from an indoor cycling event each spring in metro Atlanta. This year, its goal is to raise $150,000.
Those funds will be mostly raised during its Ovarian Cycle: Ride to Change the Future. That will be the culmination of a six-week training program on indoor bikes, with a final six-hour, 100-mile indoor ride on April 28. Participants must raise at least $400 to reserve a bike. Diamond hopes to have 150 bikes this year—some of those will be team bikes with people swapping off time cycling.
Diamond says the last hour of the event each year is overwhelming for riders completing the last leg of the journey. Their faces reflect the love they have for their mothers, wives, sisters, and best friends who have suffered from ovarian cancer. “They started doing this because they had a reason for doing it,” she says. “They’re doing it because they have great hope.”
The organization has donated funds to an Atlanta-based group, the Ovarian Cancer Institute, which is working to find an early diagnostic test for ovarian cancer, and groups applying for grants from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, which is based in New York.
Her Ovarian Cycle is something Diamond would love to turn into a national event. “My dreams are big. My passion is great,” she says. “And I want this to happen as fast as it can happen. I really want this to grow big fast.”
Signs and Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer:
- Vague but persistent and unexplained gastrointestinal complaints such as gas, nausea, and indigestion
- Abdominal bloating, pelvic and/or abdominal pain, and/or feeling of fullness
- Unexplained change in bowel habits (constipation or diarrhea)
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Frequency and/or urgency of urination
- Unusual fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- New and unexplained abnormal postmenopausal vaginal bleeding
Source: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
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