Judith Fox-A Story of Long Term Survival and Advocacy
I am a dyed-in-the-wool Manhattanite, a mother and mother-in-law, and fan of off-Broadway theatre. I read psychological mysteries and my favorite New York city library claims George Washington as an early member. I own a jewelry company that specializes in designing and manufacturing diamond products such as engagement and wedding rings. I am also a 14-year survivor of late-stage, high-grade ovarian cancer.
I had no right to expect that I would be alive and well 14 years following my diagnosis. My doctors could not predict that I would be a long-term survivor. Surgery, two clinical trials, and one standard chemotherapy treatment helped me recover. Although my new after-cancer life looks like it is pretty much the same as my pre-diagnosis days, my tangling with ovarian cancer has shed a new light on everything I do.
For the past 8 years my ovarian cancer activities have included SHARE (Self-Help for Women with Breast and Ovarian Cancer), and the Survivors Teaching Students program through the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Saving women's lives has added a different flavor to my life. I answer the SHARE Ovarian Cancer Helpline several times a month. Since 2012, I have served as a consumer peer reviewer for the Department of Defense (DoD) Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP). I love working with all three groups: the women who need support and information from survivors, the medical students in the Survivors Teaching Students program, and reviewing research applications for OCRP.
In October 2013 I participated in my first OCRP review panel. We discussed the applications via teleconference and, as a reminder of who is on the peer review panel, I had pictures of each panel member on my bulletin board in front of me. As a consumer reviewer, one of my roles was to evaluate how each research study would impact women diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While hearing the thoughtful voices of the other reviewers as they presented scientifically based conclusions on each grant application, I was struck by how much they care and how seriously they took the process that might improve ovarian cancer treatment. These scientists and clinicians were as concerned as I am for the women in recurrence now and for the women who will need treatment when they are diagnosed. I was moved by the care they displayed and it made working with this panel a remarkable experience.
What I love about the DoD OCRP is the recognition of the need for innovative high-risk, high-reward trials to improve the outcome of ovarian cancer diagnosis, to increase overall survival numbers, and to uncover more effective treatment options. More importantly, it is the recognition by the DoD OCRP that lives are at stake and that progress must be made quickly in order to save lives.