Gini Steinke, Founder & Executive Director
In 2005 the need for ovarian cancer education and awareness was growing in our community. Invitations were sent out to medical professionals and ovarian cancer survivors in our area to see if there was an interest in the community to form an organization that would target ovarian cancer awareness. In March, a small group of 9 women joined around a table at Renee’s Survivor Shop to discuss the need and toss around ideas on how we would get the word out. Needless to say the excitement around that table was overwhelming and everyone committed to working hard to get the word out somehow. Well we worked so hard that 4 months later we had our first walk and then the following year our first golf outing in memory of Karen Creque.
Since that day in 2005 it became my passion to grow the OCC through education, awareness and major fundraisers, but most importantly the opportunity to help women fighting ovarian cancer. It’s an honor to provide support, community resources and financial assistance to these women. Without the wonderful support from our community, our volunteers and the precious board members, the Ovarian Cancer Connection could not have made such an impact in our community in such a short period of time. Thank you!
Christine Valentine, Founding Member and Medical Advisor
As a nurse, I took care of many patients with ovarian cancer. I saw how devastating the disease could be and it bothered me that there were few warning signs and no valid screening tests available. During my career, two friends were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. One was 33 years old and one was 25 years old at the time of their diagnosis. The ages of these women don't fit with the statistics, but I realized that many of the women I took care of were younger.
When I received an invitation to attend the first meeting of an ovarian cancer group, I was excited beyond words. There were other people in the community who recognized the need to spread awareness and educate people about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. I have been honored to serve on the board of the Ovarian Cancer Connection to help in the effort to raise community awareness about this disease.
Angie Rumer, Founding Member and Social Media/Website Coordinator
My Mom, Bonnie Nellett was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2001 at the age of 57. At that time I was working as a social worker on the oncology unit at Toledo Hospital. Given my experiences with my mom and many pt's in the hospital, I quickly became aware of how devastating this disease could be. I committed myself to helping raise awareness and support research so perhaps other women would not have to go through what my mom, and so many others went through. When my friend Christine Valentine, received an invitation to join a group of local ladies starting an organization to bring awareness to this disease, I jumped at the chance!
Unfortunately, my mom lost her fight against Ovarian Cancer in April 2006 but it is in her honor and her memory that I continue to be committed to the Ovarian Cancer Connection and its mission by serving on the Board. I am honored to have worked with so many amazing survivors and their families.
Amy Creque Stone- Founding Member and Secretary
My family participated in the first ovarian cancer walk at Oak Openings Metropark right alongside my mom – the beginning of being part of an organization that raises awareness and truly makes a difference.
My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 49, and fought the disease for nearly eight years. During this time she wanted to raise awareness about ovarian cancer and make sure that women listened to their bodies. I decided to become more involved with OCC to continue to spread the news, in her memory and honor.
My mom loved to golf! Following her passing, the group sponsored a golf outing – and we teed off for teal. The outing is in its 8th year and I continue to be involved it this special event.
Ovarian cancer has touch me, my family and many of our friends and their families in SE Michigan. Mom, Jane B., Joyce O., Nancy S., Diana V., Kathy G., Nancy D., Joanne L., Jean S. and all women with ovarian cancer – I do this for you that someday we find a diagnostic test and ultimately a cure.
Joan Drzewiecki- Survivor and Community Coordinator
I am a proud eight (8) year survivor of Ovarian Cancer even though it was discovered by accident.
With the good care provided by my GYN-Oncologist, Dr. Garth Phibbs, nursing personnel, the oncology nurses and support from my family and friends I have been very fortunate. I thank God every day. Therefore, I feel very compelled to “pay it forward”. Through various experiences and my support group I learned about the Ovarian Cancer Connection (OCC).
The mission of the OCC is to raise the awareness regarding Ovarian Canc3er, educate the community about early warning signs and symptoms of this devastating disease and advocate for a definitive testing tool for early diagnosis as well as advocacy for increased research funding. Also, the OCC provides financial assistance to survivors who are in need of help.
As a survivor and board member, I am in my small way, attempting to accomplish the mission of the OCC through various events and on-going efforts to reach out to the community. To quote Katy Perry: “You’re going to hear me ROAR”.
Jeanne Wingate- Survivor and Board Member
I have been a part of the Ovarian Cancer Connection for several years now. I was encouraged to get involved after my diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer 11 1/2 years ago. These women and organization are an amazing group with a heart and passion for the cause. We are there to educate and bring awareness to the community on the early signs of ovarian cancer and support women with ovarian cancer and their caregivers. I feel so blessed to be a part of this organization and will continue to FIGHT for the cause.
Tina Denker- Treasurer
Over the last 8 years, two women who are very dear to me were diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. Mary was 41 and Sherri was 51 when they received the news. Luckily both of them were able to identify the cancer early, received the appropriate treatment and are now cancer free because they listened to their bodies and knew the warning signs. It has been, by no means, an easy journey for either of them, but both are very thankful that they took the time to go to their doctors with their concerns and that they were persistent in finding out what was wrong. Sherri’s sister, Marilee, unfortunately has stage four ovarian cancer and is currently undergoing her fifth treatment. She has been fighting the battle for the past 6 years.
These women are wonderful, strong individuals and the reason why I wanted to be part of Ovarian Cancer Connection. If we, as an organization can help educate and bring awareness to this silent disease, financially support those undergoing treatment and save even just one life, then our efforts are all worth it. I am truly honored to be on the board of the Ovarian Cancer Connection.
Kathy Mannon- President
My Mom, Mary Lou Davis, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer in 2009 at the age of 68. We were no stranger to this diagnosis, as my Grams, (Mom’s Mom) Evelyn Lawrence also battled Ovarian Cancer. Even still, Mom’s diagnosis caught us off guard. My first encounter with OCC was at a walk. We surprised Mom and rallied a huge team together of family and friends and made incredible memories of a beautiful day honoring her brave fight. We were blessed to get to participate in 4 of those walks, each one a treasured gift. Mom lost her battle 9/13/13, one week before the walk that year. As hard as it was, we still participated just 5 days after her funeral, only this time it was in her memory. I realized right then as I looked around at other women there fighting with everything they have, that this organization gave us treasures, and as soon as I could get myself emotionally together, I wanted to be a part of that effort. The education part has really stood out to me – I don’t want anyone to go through what Mom and Gram did. I want ladies to know the symptoms and listen to their bodies.
It is with a grateful heart for what this group does, and in honor and memory of my precious Momma and Grams, that I asked to be a part of OCC. I have adopted teal as “my color”. I wear multiple pieces of jewelry that say Be Brave, and use those as conversation starters about the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer to anyone who will listen. If I can help in a small way to somehow ease the journey of those battling this stupid ugly disease, it’s my humble honor.
My Mom, Sherrie Nimigean was diagnosed with stage 3C Ovarian Cancer at the age of 49. Her doctor insisted that she had a UTI & then later, a kidney infection but my Mom knew it was something more. She kept pushing and eventually the doctor sent her for more testing. In January of 2012 we learned the truth. We were shocked. There was no history of cancer in our family. My Mom had surgery & started chemo. It wasn't working the way they had hoped so she became a part of a research trial. Throughout treatment, my Mom ALWAYS had a smile on her face. It was her thing. And it was contagious. In mid December of 2013 she got sick with what we assumed was the flu & she asked to go to the ER. They ran some tests & we learned that the cancer had spread everywhere. They told us she had 2 weeks to live. She made it 6 weeks. She didn't lose her cancer battle, she won it on January 28th, 2014. She gained her angel wings & became our guardian angel. She was 51 years old. I was 30, my sister was 28, my brother was 22 & my youngest sister was just 19. From the time she was diagnosed to the time she passed away was only 2 years. I literally watched cancer take my Mom from me. I don't want anyone else to have to go through that.
As if life wasn't crazy enough, I found out I was pregnant with my third child one month after my Mom passed away. I had told her a couple of months prior to that I'd never be able to have another baby without her here. She cried with me & held my hand. From the time I had my first baby my Mom always told me she just knew I'd have 3 kids. Nine months & 1 day after my Mom passed away, on October 29th, we welcomed our third baby girl. We named her Norah Sherrie to honor my Mom. Not only was my Mom an amazing mother, she was an outstanding Grandma. She loved spending time with her family. It saddens me that she didn't get to meet Norah but something tells me that they already have an unbreakable bond. And someday... We'll all be together again.
I am proud to be a part of the OCC. I will never stop fighting- for my Mom, for myself, for my three daughters, Marlee, Paislee & Norah. For everyone out there dealing with this horrific disease. I hope my girls can someday live in a world where Ovarian Cancer doesn't exist.