by Victoria Ferro

For the first time in its history, The Bay Area Cancer Connections Foundation (formerly Breast Cancer Connections) tackled the challenges of ovarian cancer sufferers in the BCC 2014 Annual Conference held last November 1st at the Oracle Parkway in Redwood City.  

The featured patient keynote speaker, Katya Lezin, notably is an ovarian cancer survivor.  She is the author of the book “But I Just Grew Out My Bangs” a memoir of her journey through ovarian cancer treatment.  Before writing the book, she wrote a regular weekly column about her experiences going through treatment in the local paper in Charlotte, North Carolina where she resides with her husband and three children.  Ms. Lezin also connected well with the breast cancer community in the audience because she elected to have a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction, a major 14 hours operation, after he was found to have the BRCA1 gene shortly after her ovarian cancer diagnosis.

She told one story after another with humor and great energy, most of the time looking for the “funny” even in the most dire situations.  She admitted however there are times when finding the funny was inappropriate or impossible.  A true creative, Ms. Lezin entertained the mostly female audience with songs she herself composed that were performed by her two teenage daughters through video.  One song lamented how so much public attention was given to breast cancer and not as much to other kinds of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, which also “kills”, according to Lezin.  Another song was about how her daughters are happy to know that they may be at risk with the BRCA1 gene.  They say this way they are able to prepare and make decisions for their health no matter what the results are of their genetic testing.

Somehow Ms. Lezin and her husband were able to communicate and interact with their children about their mother’s health challenge in sa way that helped them to cope with humor and gratitude.  They are in fact thrilled that their own horizons are expanding even as their mother’s “celebrity” as epatient advocate continues to rise.

The Bay Area Cancer Connections (BCC) is also expanding its regular offerings within its brand new offices on El Camino Real in Palo Alto to include ovarian cancer sufferers.  Clearly the organization is maintaining a strong focus on serving the mostly female community struck with many variants of both cancers in the area.  Already they are introducing new programs that can benefit both groups, such as a workshop on expressive arts set for later this month.