Two Moms of the Week Partner with Powerhouse Community Organizations to Save Women’s Lives

Two Moms of the Week Partner with Powerhouse Community Organizations to Save Women’s Lives

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Kaile Josephs Zagger launched Greenwich’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September of 2018 to honor her late mother, Marilyn Ann Trahan who died at 46 of Ovarian Cancer. “My mom was a beautiful, vibrant woman. Looking back, the signs were there, but she was high-functioning, didn’t miss a beat and lived life to the fullest, so we didn’t worry as much as we should have. One day, it changed…. She went to work, became very ill and was diagnosed that afternoon with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. I wonder now if it could have all been prevented… had the whispers been translated.” Read Kaile’s Mom of the Week interview here.

In the U.S. last year, 55,000 women lost their lives to Breast and Ovarian Cancer, and almost 300,000 new cases were diagnosed. Unfortunately, Ovarian Cancer patients usually have the disease for more than 24 months and have seen more than 4 doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Realizing first hand the devastating effect these illnesses have on women and their families, Kaile formed partnerships, held educational forums and used teal lighting to alert area women and doctors to the signs of this dread disease.

In June, Greenwich will launch a new program for Breast and Ovarian Cancer Early Detection and Prevention called the MAT (Kaile’s mother’s initials) Certification, powered by Yale New Haven Health and Discovery to Cure, and in partnership with the Town of Greenwich, Greenwich Hospital, the YWCA, Breast Cancer Alliance and the UJA-JCC.  The certification program is a rigorous curriculum across many disciplines from genetics to imaging to segmentation of the population (for example, women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have elevated risk for both Breast and Ovarian Cancer), to help doctors understand how to screen high-risk women who present with low grade, seeming unidentifiable symptoms. Their mission is to save women’s lives through earlier detection and treatment.

Diane Powis is a Greenwich resident and MAT team member whose story perfectly illustrates the difficulty of recognizing symptoms and receiving an accurate and timely diagnosis. “My loving and devoted mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 and died at 48, when I was 20 years old. Four of my five great aunts on my mother’s side also died of breast cancer. My family is of Eastern European Jewish (Ashkenazi) descent. Consequently, throughout my twenties and thirties I was hyper-vigilant about scheduling mammograms, breast ultrasounds, and even breast MRIs, as I was determined to detect and obliterate what I assumed was my genetic fate. However, ovarian cancer wasn’t on my radar screen and, as it turned out, several of my doctors missed the risk, as well. An ever-growing list of health issues troubled me throughout 2012 and early 2013. I often wonder what might have happened had any one of several medical professionals made an early connection between my family history, symptoms and eventual ovarian cancer diagnosis.  Specifically, a few months after my 44thbirthday, in the summer of 2012, my gynecologist conducted a dilation and curettage (“D&C”) procedure to address my sudden unusually heavy periods. A couple of months later, I developed strange rashes on my legs and pelvic pain and met with my gynecologist and a urologist. In November, my lower back “seized”, and I saw a chiropractor. By January 2013, my back pain had disappeared, but my lower abdomen had become achy and tender. My GP suggested that it could be diverticulitis. Later that month, with no resolution to my abdominal pain, my GP ordered a CT scan of my abdomen and referred me to a gastroenterologist. The gastroenterologist and I looked at the inconclusive blurry scan together in her office, but she did not perform a clinical exam. By February 2013, I was unable to digest any food without childbirth labor-like cramping in my abdomen, so my GP suggested a colonoscopy. After I woke up post-procedure, the gastroenterologist informed me that my lower colon was highly obstructed from above by a cancerous mass.  In late February 2013, eight months after my D&C, a biopsy and further scans confirmed that I had Stage III ovarian cancer that had originated in my fallopian tubes and spread throughout my abdominal cavity. Six years later, after multiple surgeries and countless rounds of chemotherapy, I’m thrilled to be here to share my story and to help raise ovarian cancer awareness by joining the MAT team.” Diane Powis (Read Diane’s Mom of the Week interview here).

The MAT Certification will enable doctors to identify women at high risk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer, to recognize indefinite symptoms and act fast to treat them. The Town of Greenwich has officially proclaimed May 1stthe launch of the certification program for Greenwich and encourages women to ask their physicians if they have taken the course and are certified by the end of August 2019.

All are welcome to join the Proclamation Event on May 1 at Town Hall at 6:30 PM. Thanks to Kaile, Diane and their community partners, the outlook for women with reproductive cancers is becoming brighter.