Jodi’s Race for Awareness Provides an Avenue for Ovarian Cancer Education, Support and Inspiration

 05/31/2023 | 10:25 AM 

14th Annual Event: June 10, 2023 at Denver’s City Park ~

Team Helen

Team Helen

DENVER, Colo. (May 8, 2023) – At first glance, Helen Alvillar, Jean McKibben and Roxie Strong have little in common. At age 71, Avilar is single and still working as an HR/Benefits Coordinator for Rocky Mountain PBS; McKibben, who is 80, grew up in a small town in southeastern Colorado and retired after 28 years as a teacher in 2005; and 77-year-old Strong enjoys traveling around the world after spending 15 years as residential home appraiser. Yet all three women share a common passion: educating other women about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and the importance of advocating for your own health.

Roxie Strong

Roxie Strong

Each year, these three women join thousands of other women, men and children in City Park for Jodi’s Race for Awareness ─ the second largest ovarian cancer run/walk in the country. They wear teal (the color of ovarian cancer) accessories ─ including hats, tutus, feathers and capes ─ carry signs featuring the faces of loved ones who have battled the disease and gather with friends and families in elaborately decorated tents that are part of Team Village. All are there to support the women in their lives who have battled ovarian cancer and to increase awareness of the disease, which is the deadliest gynecologic cancer and is most frequently diagnosed in women aged 60+.  

McKibben, who, after doubling over in the classroom due to sharp abdominal pains that the ER attributed to a burst ovarian cyst, knew nothing about ovarian cancer. A month after the initial pains, she visited her gynecologist and within a week was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent surgery. She’s since had three recurrences and is extremely thankful that she found a Support Group run by the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA). “This is a disease that very few people know about so you need a group that is going through what you are and can support you,” shares McKibben.” Although her last recurrence was in 2011, McKibben still participates in COCA’s support groups to help others going through ovarian cancer.

Jean McGibben and a survivor

Jean McGibben and a survivor

Although Alvillar lost a sister-in-law to ovarian cancer many years ago, it didn’t occur to her that the pain she was experiencing in her pelvic area was a symptom of the disease. In fact, doctors at the hospital diagnosed it as a blocked intestine and did exploratory surgery before making a diagnosis based on lab results. “The symptoms are so subtle,” says Alvillar, who encourages women to pay attention to their bodies and inform their physician of any changes they experience. She remembers attending her first Jodi’s Race in 2018 during which women receive a strand of beads for each year since diagnosis. “Seeing women with 10, 15 and 20 strands of beads gave me such hope,” she recalls.

For Strong, who was diagnosed with stage IA fallopian tube cancer in 2005, the Survivor Breakfast at Jodi’s Race is her favorite part. “There’s just so much positivity as survivors and their loved ones gather and encourage each other,” she reports. Strong also continues to participate in COCA’s support groups and credits the ability to share experiences with others who are on a similar pathway with helping her on her own journey. She also encourages her female friends to get regular check-ups and talk to their doctors about things that ‘aren’t normal.’ 

In addition to offering hope and celebration, Jodi’s Race is both an educational event and a fundraiser for COCA. Because there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, it’s important for women to recognize the most common symptoms ─  bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency or frequency. Any symptoms that continue for two weeks or more or recur frequently should be reported to a physician promptly. While the incidence of ovarian cancer increases after age 60, women can be diagnosed at any age. Funds raised through Jodi’s Race support COCA programs including support groups, individual counseling, financial assistance and insurance navigation, COCA’s Ovarian Cancer Resource Guide, comfort kits, educational programs and much more.  

About Jodi’s Race for Awareness
Jodi’s Race for Awareness was started in 2010 by Jodi Brammeier, a young wife and mother who believed her cancer would have been discovered earlier if she had known the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Jodi’s Race has raised more than $2 million to educate and assist Colorado women diagnosed with the disease. Although Brammeier lost her battle with ovarian cancer shortly after the inaugural race, her spirit lives on at the annual event that helps raise awareness so that other women might find their cancer earlier and stand a better chance to survive the disease. Online registration is available at www.jodisrace.org.

All money raised from Jodi’s Race remains in Colorado and funds initiatives that support women with ovarian cancer, including COCACares Financial Assistance, Nicki’s Circle Support Groups, the Ovarian Cancer Resource Guide, Comfort Kits for the newly diagnosed, Carol’s Wish Financial Navigation, an annual Raise Awareness campaign, and Survivors Teaching Students®, a national program of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA). More information about COCA and its programs is available at www.colo-ovariancancer.org.

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