SLOCA Says ‘You Are Not Alone’ to Women with Ovarian Cancer
September is nationally recognized as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Yet it remains a very lonely disease, says Susan Robben, Executive Director of St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness (SLOCA). “If you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you often will find many others that have gone through it or that know someone who has. Ovarian cancer is unique and patients can feel very alone,” she says. The fact is ovarian cancer is one-tenth as common as breast cancer, but three times as lethal. SLOCA, says Robben, is there to raise the public’s awareness of the disease, fund research and support patients throughout their journey.
Now in its 20th year, SLOCA remains the only nonprofit in Missouri dedicated solely to ovarian cancer, which itself can feel a bit lonely, says Robben. “That’s why it’s comforting to have a long-term partner like YouthBridge.” SLOCA established a quasi endowment fund with YouthBridge eight years ago and has benefited from its expertise in managing and growing the fund in a positive way, she says. “They’ve held our hand throughout the process and even provided workshops on how to build, solicit for and make the right moves with an endowment…really serving as a bridge to what to do with the fund and when.”
The endowment fund is critical to the continued growth of support programs, “as are our wonderful donors and 200+ volunteers that regularly come to our aid,” says Robben. Two new programs, launched during the height of COVID, reinforce for survivors that they are not alone, she says. The first, the Woman to Woman Program, pairs ovarian cancer patients with trained survivor volunteers who provide one-on-one emotional support and mentoring from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.
“We’ve had some real friendships develop out of this program in our first two years and grown it to 25 available mentors,” says Robben. She says the mentors are not there to give medical advice, compare physicians or anything of that nature, but to offer insights and encouragement that only they can provide, “because they’ve been through it.”
The second program may have been a long time coming, but is coming at just the right time for many ovarian cancer patients. “We know that the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming,” says Robben. “For many years, we would hear from ovarian cancer patients asking about food delivery and other resources. It’s so satisfying to now be able to respond to patients in need.” The Together in Teal Fund provides financial assistance, based on eligibility, to cover the costs of insurance premiums, mortgages, car payments, utilities and other basic living expenses, as well as wigs.
Robben says, “Our goal is that women will be able to focus on the most important thing, and that’s healing.”
To learn more about the services of SLOCA and how to become involved, visit www.sloca.org.
If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.