continued “So here I am, the little engine that could. Small, yet strong. And I will prevail. Everyone asks how I am, and this is the answer. I am completely determined.”
After her colon troubles put her dancing career on hiatus, Heather took a job with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. She continued to work there throughout her own battle with cancer as assistant to the CEO, Elizabeth Howard.
“She found a new passion and decided to change careers,” Frieda Weeks said. “She felt this was an area where she could make a difference.”
Heather continued to work at the OCRF until she was too sick to work anymore. But she continued to try to raise awareness and money for ovarian cancer. So when she succumbed to the disease on Nov. 14, 2008, her family agreed that they would fight for the same things in her memory. They founded the Hope for Heather Foundation in May of 2009.
“We felt that she would want us to carry on what she felt was important,” Frieda Weeks said.
Indeed, ovarian cancer is an illness that could use some publicity. It’s the leading cause of death from gynecological cancers in the United States and the fifth leading cause of cancer death among American women. Each year, approximately 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 15,000 women die of the disease. In 2008, it is estimated that 21,650 women in the United States will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 15,520 women will die from the disease.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are very vague, making it difficult to diagnose. Only 19 percent of ovarian cancers are caught before cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region. When it is detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92 percent.