Ironically, I started raising funds for ovarian cancer research six years before my own diagnosis. I didn’t know anyone with ovarian cancer at the time, but supporting critically underfunded research for this challenging disease seemed like a good thing to do. That fundraising effort became personal when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2017, and I began a physician-patient collaboration with my gynecological oncologist, Dr. Charles Drescher.
I started advocating in research shortly after I finished chemotherapy. A scientist-friend told me that many researchers would never meet the beneficiaries of their career-long efforts. I couldn't imagine working for an entire career without meeting a potential beneficiary of my endeavors. Around the same time I had a revelation. Ovarian cancer is relatively difficult to diagnose, and of those who are diagnosed, many are too sick to do more than simply survive. That leaves few of us who can speak up for all those who can’t, and I'm one of those few. Therefore, I began to feel that I have a moral obligation to speak on behalf of all the survivors who can no longer speak for themselves.
Although I had been raising funds for ovarian cancer research for more than 10 years and advocated in research for three years, I became much more serious about both after my cancer recurred in 2020. Dr. Drescher and I began a new collaboration to raise more funds for research and promote the importance of the connection between scientists and survivor advocates. We established the Powell-Drescher Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, which we have nicknamed the POWER Foundation because the merger of our names (POWell+DreschER) is POWER. The foundation’s mission is to POWER the future of ovarian cancer research by endowing funds and championing collaboration between scientist and survivor.
The Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) within the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) is the perfect example of the powerful collaboration possible between scientist and survivor. Survivors, or consumers, offer unique and indispensable perspectives to research. At the OCRP, we have an equal place at the table with the scientists, and our voices are equally respected. By providing the survivor perspective, the scientists have a better understanding of what we face, which allows them to focus on the things that will matter to us and to fund those projects that will significantly and positively impact our lives.
In addition to my service as a consumer reviewer, I now provide the survivor's perspective for two important entities funded by the OCRP. The DOD Ovarian Cancer Academy is a platform that helps to develop scientific careers and build networks in ovarian cancer research for the early career investigators, where I serve as a member of the academy's advisory council. The DOD Omics Consortium is a multi-institutional group of scientists studying the origins of ovarian cancer with an emphasis on early detection and screening. Not only am I an equal member of the Consortium, as a survivor, I am at the hub of the group's activities.
I have always believed strongly that through collaboration, the physician and the patient, and the scientist and the survivor have the power to change the statistics. Nowhere is that more evident than in the work of the DOD OCRP.
The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy, or decision.
Last updated Wednesday, September 14, 2022