By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
A couple weeks ago, Washington D.C. held their annual Advocacy Days, which is a period of time welcoming groups with likeminded goals and desires to visit their respected state representatives to request support for their cause. Thousands of individuals filled the Capital sharing their stories and raising awareness for something near and dear to their hearts. For Roxanne Bright and mother Carroll Precht, that cause is Ovarian Cancer Research and Awareness, or OCRA.
Bright is an ovarian cancer survivor who was misdiagnosed several times before she underwent surgery for a full hysterectomy. “They thought I had kidney stones,” she said, recalling her journey to her diagnosis. It wasn’t until she awoke from her multiple hour surgery that she was informed she did in fact have cancer. By this time it was border line stage three. For anyone who is friends with Bright on Facebook, you know the month of September she is always sharing about ovarian cancer, as that is its recognition month. This past year, she shared her story over the course of those thirty days keeping readers on edge to hear what happened next. “I took a big step sharing my story,” she admitted. She also said that from people reading her story, she has had other women approach her saying they too sought medical attention for issues they had to confirm it wasn’t going to end up the same diagnosis.
Bright and Precht traveled to D.C. on March 3, participated in extensive training on the 4. And on the 5 of March were joined by over one hundred passionate individuals on Capitol Hill. “It was empowering to be with these women knowing we had such a focused cause,” she said. Bright shared devastating statistics regarding the affects of ovarian cancer, stating approximately twenty-two thousand women per year will be diagnosed and over fourteen thousand of those women will die from this disease. “These numbers have not changed in forty years,” she informed, noting a dire need for intervention. Ovarian cancer is West Virginia’s fifth deadliest disease, and West Virginia stands as the eleventh highest state in mortality. She explained a major contributor to this fact is there is no early detection and by the time it is discovered, a lot of women have already progressed to stage three or four. Bright said, such as with her personal experience, ovarian cancer often goes misdiagnosed as kidney stones or irritable bowel syndrome.
Once Bright recovered from her procedure and was cancer free, she made it her life mission to serve as a voice and a mentor to others facing the same situation. One day, she received an email from the Ovarian Cancer Research Association (OCRA) seeking applicants to serve as an advocate. The group’s goal was to secure at least one advocate from all fifty states, so Bright sent in her application. There were one hundred and ten women interviewed, to which fifty of those were accepted. “It was the biggest class since the advocacy started,” Bright said. As of current, Bright is the only OCRA advocate in the state of West Virginia.
Since her journey, Bright has also travelled to Marshall University to participate in an event called Survivors Teaching Students, where cancer survivors share their stories with medical students. She is very passionate and eager to work for this organization, and stated, “I want people to reach out.” She is very active on social media groups connecting with and assisting those going through similar circumstances. Precht recalled hearing the words confirming her daughter’s diagnosis. “It was devastating to hear she had cancer,” she said. “We love her so much and I am so glad that Neal (Bright’s late Father) was here with us then.” Precht is a proud supporter of her daughters cause and accompanies her on many of her endeavors to spread the word. “We are so blessed that she didn’t have to have treatment and I want to help her get the word out there about ovarian cancer. I am so proud of her and her advocacy for the cause.”
While in D.C., Bright and Precht scheduled meetings with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Senator Joe Manchin, and Representative David McKinley. Capito was the only one available to meet with the advocacy representatives in person, though Manchin and McKinley had a representative present in their stead. When asked how Capito reacted to Bright sharing her information for her cause, she said, “She was shocked by the numbers.” Bright said the mortality rate used to sit around 8.4% per 100,000 women diagnosed, but that statistic has grown to a shocking 12.2%. According toocrahope.org, only 46.5% of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will survive past five years. Bright smiled as she said they provided Capito a teal ribbon pin that she not only put on for their group picture, but proudly wore the rest of the day and showed up in the rest of her group photos. Precht added, “We met so many great people in D.C., we are so blessed!”
OCRA will be notified when the 2020 fiscal budget is published if their efforts were successful. Their main goal for this trip was to rekindle research support for finding a way for earlier detection as well as more effective treatment options. Even though the trip to D.C. is behind her, Bright has no intention of letting up on her efforts. She will soon be visiting the Parsons City Council and potentially the Tucker County Commissioners to request a resolution declaring September as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, and be granted the opportunity to “Turn the Town Teal” the entire month.
For more information on statistics, warning signs, testing, or to support the cause, feel free to check out www.ocrahope.org and please do not let warning signs be ignored.