How Ovarian Cancer Canada Uses Running Events to Raise Awareness and Funds for a Cure

Every year, approximately 3,100 Canadians receive the devastating diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Each day, five Canadians are lost to it. Despite advancements in medical technology, survival rates for this disease have not improved in the last 50 years. To combat these statistics and create a future where ovarian cancer is preventable and curable, organizations like Ovarian Cancer Canada (OCC) rely on the strength of their community and the generosity of donors. Community support can help fund research, advocacy initiatives, and education resources, and raise awareness of the disease.

This is among the reasons the organization is participating in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Community running events like Race Weekend and Beau’s 5k run for OCC, which takes place every June at the brewery in Vankleek Hill, are key opportunities to spread awareness and raise money.

One of the participants running with the OCC team is Sandrine Marchand, who works in health promotion and has a personal connection to the cause, having lost her mother to ovarian cancer 12 years ago. While new to running, Sandrine was motivated to join the race by her partner and his family, who participated in Race Weekend last year. She will be running the Ottawa 10K presented by Otto’s Ottawa to raise funds for the organization, and as a way to challenge herself and get back into shape while supporting a cause close to her heart.

One of the factors making ovarian cancer so deadly is that women are diagnosed so late as symptoms are vague and mimic other more common and benign conditions. Sandrine’s mother was diagnosed with stage four metastatic ovarian cancer and passed about 6 months after her diagnosis. “I want to raise funds to help raise awareness for this type of cancer, but also to improve detection,” Sandrine says.

“Unfortunately, it is a very deadly cancer as a lot of women tend to show signs and symptoms at later stages of the disease. I hope it also helps with prevention as well as treatments. Although its incidence is smaller than other cancers such as breast cancer, it tends to be diagnosed at later stages where the chances of survival are lower.”

For Shanna Delorme, co-founder of Beau’s 5K for OCC, the cause is also deeply personal. The event, now in its 10th year, honours Shanna’s sister, Ashley Courtois, who passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 33. “She was diagnosed in January 2015, when she underwent surgery to remove a large mass that was attached to her ovary. The doctors did not originally think she had cancer because she was only 30 years old and ovarian cancer is most often seen in women over 50. The mass turned out to be cancerous and Ashley wound up having a full hysterectomy and underwent more than 6 months of chemotherapy.” Shanna says.

Ashley, an avid runner, participated in Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and had a goal of running 15 races in 2015. She completed 21. “Five and a half weeks post-surgery, she ran her first 5 kilometre race. She was stubborn and determined to achieve her goal,” Shanna says. Tragically, Ashley’s cancer came back in 2016 and she passed away in 2018. “I vowed to Ashley that I would keep her conversation
going,” Shanna says.

“Before her diagnosis, I had never heard of ovarian cancer or events to raise money for it. Since then, I learned that ovarian cancer is the least funded women’s cancer and has the highest mortality rate,” Shanna mentions.

As Sandrine, Shanna, and countless others lace up their running shoes for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and the Beau’s 5K, they are not just running for themselves; they are running for a future where ovarian cancer is no longer a threat. “Supporting these organizations has a great impact, especially as so many have unfortunately known or will know someone affected by cancer in Canada,” Sandrine says. Support their cause and donate to or join the Ovarian Cancer Canada team at Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.