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Ovarian cancer affects one in 75 women. Do you know all the facts?

By Lauren Jones, Photo courtesy of Karen Short

“Know your body. When something doesn’t feel right, take note and pay attention,” says Karen Short, the Austin chapter manager of the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.

Ovarian cancer affects one in 75 women, and although those with Stage I and Stage II typically receive optimistic prognoses, diagnosing the disease can be difficult.

“There is no test. Your annual pap smear will not detect it,” Short says. “The way ovarian cancer is generally found is when a woman goes in complaining of symptoms like bloating and lower back pain, things that are somewhat normal.”

Having led the Austin chapter of the coalition for more than three years, Short has seen her fair share of cases and is a passionate activist for the cause.

“I don’t have an ovarian-cancer connection,” Short says. “My history is actually in politics, and I was a lobbyist for a long time in Austin. I left the political world for a long time and when I came back, I found it had passed me by. I couldn’t get a job.”

Instead of continuing to pursue a career in politics, Short followed her heart and within three weeks, found herself at the Austin chapter of the NOCC, where she was met with women who needed her leadership.

After three and a half years with the organization, Short is more fulfilled than ever. She proudly dons her NOCC name tag and teal ribbon, and is happy to educate others about the little-known facts of the disease. The statistics may not tell the whole story. While the current statistics argue that ovarian cancer most often affects perimenopausal women, Short has known kids as young as 8 that get it. It’s an absolutely heart-wrenching disease.

Whether helping survivors, those who are recently diagnosed or those with friends or family facing this disease, the NOCC stands firmly with the cause and continues to preach that knowing your body is the most important thing women can do to prevent ovarian cancer. Staying positive doesn’t hurt either.

“The women that survive this disease are the bravest, most warm-hearted and strongest women you will ever meet,” Short says.

In October NOCC members, along with approximately 600 Austinites, will come together at Camp Mabry for the 10th annual NOCC Run/Walk. Each year, the event helps fundraise more money for the cure. Short hopes that in the next decade, a procedure can be identified that will help detect ovarian cancer before it reaches its latter stages. Through a strategic partnership with Stand Up To Cancer, the organization has established a dream team of experts that specializes in treating ovarian and other gynecological cancers.

In addition to growing awareness on a national level, Short strives to build the Austin chapter’s presence and lives by the organization’s mission to save lives “by fighting tirelessly to prevent and cure ovarian cancer and improve the quality of life for survivors” every day.

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