'A sorority no one wants to join': Local group brings support and awareness to ovarian cancer

Savannah Vasquez
Four of the current seven members of the Sistas group from left; Nancy Batchman, Kay Bonn, Barbara Young and Carrie Terry.

Four women dressed in teal sat together at the Kelly Plantation Golf Club sipping coffee and chatting Monday afternoon. To the average onlooker they looked like a group of friends reminiscing old times together, and while that part is true, this particular group has another common bond that brings them together; they have all been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at some point in their lives.

The group calls themselves the Sistas and are survivors of ovarian cancer hoping to bring awareness and support to what has been dubbed the “disease that whispers.”

“In our support group we consider ourselves Sistas and are there for each other, good times or bad, to laugh or to console,” said founding member Kay Bonn. “Although it is a sorority that no one wants to join, it is so helpful to have others who are going down the same path to exchange information and give support, to have others who ‘get it.’”

As September is ovarian cancer awareness month, the Sistas hope to bring education of the common symptoms of the disease, and their own stories to light in order to save lives of others.

“We want to let women know to listen to your body,” said group member Barbara Young. “What we want women to be aware of is that a pap smear does not catch it.”

According to the American Cancer Society, about one in 75 women are at risk of getting ovarian cancer. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include: Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms such as urgency or frequency, constipation, menstrual changes, and abdominal swelling with weight loss.

The United States National Library of Medicine affirms that ovarian cancer awareness is important because symptoms differ woman to woman and mirror other illnesses. Because of this, ovarian cancer can be hard to detect and the disease often goes untreated until it is already in advanced stages.

“Our message to all women is this,” said Bonn. “Have a yearly well woman visit and pelvic exam with a gynecologist. Between visits if something doesn’t feel right, and you are having symptoms that are not normal for you and that persist almost daily for more than two weeks, see your gynecologist immediately for a pelvic or rectal exam and ask for a trans-vaginal ultrasound and CA 125 blood test.”

Carrie Terry one of the youngest members of the support group, said that her best advice to women would be to know their medical history.

“It’s normally diagnosed around age 55 or above but I was 39 when I was diagnosed,” she said. “I would say it is most important to know your history; I didn’t know I had history of ovarian cancer in my family, if I had known what I know now I could have had those tests.”

For those who have survived, recently been diagnosed, or know someone who is going through treatment, every woman in the Sistas group said they want to offer hope.

“The whole process of being diagnosed and going through chemotherapy; it really stinks,” said group member Nancy Batchman. “But there is life on the other side.” “When I first was diagnosed I was just mad for about a year,” said Young. “When you are first diagnosed your life is on hold, but then after you are through you get your life back, but it’s better. Every day is a gift.”

Bonn said for her, being the only one in the group to experience a recurrence of ovarian cancer, she lives each day with one motto; “My oncologist said, ‘don’t worry so much about tomorrow that you forget to enjoy today,’” she said.

To join the Sistas Ovarian Cancer Awareness and Support Group call Barbara Young at 622-0192 or email bayoubarbara@aol.com. The group meets informally in the Okaloosa and Walton county areas.

Connect with the Sistas