In 2006, just before my 42nd birthday, I was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. The doctors found a 6 lb, eggplant size tumor in my abdomen. I received a full hysterectomy only four days after my diagnosis and endured six long months of chemotherapy. I was able to beat the disease and credit my involvement in the sport of triathlon which started at age 40. Without this sport and a keen awareness of my body, I might not have picked up the subtle but unmistakable symptoms that encouraged me to see a doctor. The endurance training of triathlon also prepared me for the race of my life.
Lying in the hospital receiving a chemo treatment, I read an ad in Triathlete Magazine for a women's triathlon series to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF). The races were in 3 cities (San Diego, Chicago and Seattle) and I vowed to complete all three races the following year. Not only had I not had any experience with ovarian cancer prior to my diagnosis but I didn’t know there were groups and funds working to eradicate the disease. Little did I know; my competitive journey started from my hospital bed.
2007 was known as “chemo year” but rather than completely miss race season, I participated in three events. Eight weeks after chemo ended, I raced the Nautica NYC Triathlon…no hair, barely any muscle and lots of nausea, but I finished proud.
In 2008, I raced in the entire series that originally caught my attention and added several more races to round out my season. With the success of the events and by bringing a face to ovarian cancer, I realized I had an opportunity and obligation to raise money for this disease but also bring vital information to women around the country. In 2009, my campaign officially took hold as I decided to set bigger goals for myself and for fundraising for OCRF. Racing in 50 triathlons in 50 states by the time I am 50 years old, to raise $100,000 for ovarian cancer research is my current goal. I am in my third year and it will be complete by 2013. Although the fundraising is imperative, this has also become a grass-roots opportunity to talk to women around the country about early detection and signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. If detected early, it is 94% curable. Early detection is the key to saving lives. Louisiana represents state #29 on my journey.
This campaign is self inspired, self orchestrated and 100% self funded. Every penny of donations goes directly to OCRF to find a method of early detection. To further my commitment, all in-kind donations are turned into cash donations (by me) in the name of the contributor. This means that if I receive a comp entry or a comp hotel room, I donate the amount I save in the name of the race. This makes my campaign unique.
The statistics for ovarian cancer are miserable. 21,000 women will be diagnosed this year; 15,000 will die. I was one of the lucky ones. I race for women in treatment, women who have lost the battle and for women yet to be diagnosed.
To learn more or to make a donation, please visit my blog at www.jennsommermann.blogspot.com.
You will be able to see Jenn race at 8:30 am on Sunday in Cypress Black Bayou at the 31st RiverCities Triathlon.