I was diagnosed with stage IIIB low-grade serous ovarian cancer in 2016 and later reclassified as stage IV in 2019 with a high-grade ovarian cancer tumor in my chest. I have been living with both low-grade and high-grade ovarian cancer. I am now five years into my ovarian cancer journey and am glad to not only be surviving but thriving. I could not have debulking surgery when I was diagnosed due to severe pelvic radiation damage from cervical cancer treatment in 1990. Chemotherapy, Letrozole, one of the estrogen-blocking drugs, and surgery for the chest tumor have been my treatments so far.
In 2016, when I was diagnosed, I started attending the Turning the Tide Ovarian Cancer Retreat in Maine, near where I live. As a result, I have met many women with ovarian cancer and have heard their stories. Unfortunately, many of the women I have met over the past five years have died from their disease. I find that unacceptable—losing women too soon to this cancer. So, I felt called to action to spread awareness about ovarian cancer to help other women. But, how could I do this? How could I make a difference? I wanted to help women get an earlier diagnosis and hopefully have a better outcome.
In 2019, I decided to combine my love for motorcycle riding with raising awareness about ovarian cancer by buying a teal and white Harley-Davidson motorcycle, filling the saddlebags with 1,000 ovarian cancer symptom cards supplies by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC), and ride across the United States sharing my own cancer story and the symptom cards with everyone I met along the way. So I called my trip TEAL on WHEELS—teal being the color that represents ovarian cancer.
I shipped my bike to the West coast, flew out, and rode from Coos Bay, Oregon to my home on Swan’s Island, Maine—from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The ride took place in September to coincide with Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. My TEAL on WHEELS journey covered 6,198 miles, with more than 5,000 miles ridden alone. I traveled through 19 states and distributed 770 NOCC ovarian cancer symptom cards to women and men that I met along the way. I also donated $45,000 to several ovarian cancer non-profits, including NOCC, after my ride.
When I returned home from my TEAL on WHEELS ride, I got a message from a 39-year-old woman named Mandi. I had shared my story and had given a symptom card to her husband, Brent. Mandi shared with me that she had been sick for two years but could not get a diagnosis. She wrote that armed with the ovarian cancer symptom card, she got an appointment with her gynecologist and insisted on a transvaginal ultrasound. A mass was found, and Mandi was diagnosed with stage II ovarian cancer. She concluded her message to me with the following, “You saved my life, and I can never repay you.” Mandi’s story confirmed that what I had set out to do—raise awareness about ovarian cancer—had been achieved. I have continued my mission of raising awareness and distribute NOCC’s symptoms cards everywhere I go.
I often say if I could turn the clock back and never have this cancer, I’m not sure I would. It has been hard, very hard, but it has also changed my life in many ways, in positive ways. I have met many wonderful people through my cancer journey and have had many amazing experiences. I would never have ridden my motorcycle across the country if I didn’t have cancer. I would have always thought there was more time to do these things later in life. But, now I know, the time is NOW!
I recently completed writing a book about my ovarian cancer journey and my TEAL on WHEELS ride. It’s called FINDING COURAGE: Navigating Cancer on my Harley. My book shares my story of navigating my cancer journey and navigating my way across the country on my motorcycle. The book is 220 pages and contains over 60 color photos. Inside the books that I sell, I include one of NOCC’s ovarian cancer symptom bookmarks. My book is available online at: