TEAL the New Pink
Christy Reid’s Relay for Life team has big plans to raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer.
By Emily Patrick
Christy Reid always knew she would get cancer.
“I have a really, really bad history of cancer in my family. All three of my sisters have breast cancer. My mother has breast cancer. My father has prostate cancer. It wasn't like I didn't know I was going to have cancer,” she said.
She was careful to get her yearly mammogram because she expected to develop breast cancer, so she was unprepared when she received a diagnosis of stage three ovarian cancer last year.
“I never even knew about ovarian cancer, never even considered ovarian cancer,” she said. “I took care of myself and paid attention, but my doctor didn't let me know that there's a blood test available—it's called a CA125—that can test for levels in your blood that indicate that you have ovarian cancer, and he never even offered it. It should be part of a yearly test if you have a family predisposition to it.”
Now, she is working to make sure that women have access to information about the risks of ovarian cancer and how to detect it early.
The American Cancer Society reports that ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the reproductive system.
Because ovarian cancer is often diagnosed only in its later stages, more than 65 percent of cases will prove fatal, a much higher mortality rate than breast cancer, which is more common than ovarian cancer but fatal in just over 14 percent of cases.
“I'm that 35 percent. It never has entered my mind that I wasn't,” Reid said.
Reid has remained positive while struggling with her disease. Just before she lost her hair to chemotherapy, she sported a pink mohawk and made sure to take a picture on a Harley Davidson. For Halloween, by which time she was totally bald, she painted her entire head white and dressed up in a long robe as Uncle Fester from the Adams Family.
She said she is not shy about her cancer and does not see a need to try to hide it. She is happy to talk to anyone who has questions about her illness because she wants to make the facts about ovarian cancer well-known.
Next month, she will celebrate her last chemotherapy treatment and the culmination of her fundraising and awareness efforts at the Morgan County Relay for Life.
The name of her team is “Teal, the New Pink.” Her six-year-old daughter, Lily, came up with the name after she noticed how many awareness campaigns existed for breast cancer but how few there were for ovarian cancer.
“We were shopping—I believe in Khol's—in October, which is breast cancer awareness month, and everything was pink. Water bottles. Socks. I mean, you could buy a mop at Kroger for breast cancer awareness. And I think that's awesome. All awareness is good awareness. But Lily said, 'That's the wrong color. Teal is the right color. Teal is the new pink,'” Reid said.
Reid started her Relay for Life team just three weeks ago, but she has high expectations for their fundraisers this year, and she has already started planning for next year's event.
Her team has 19 members, but she hopes that more people will join before the April 20th event.
“My goal is $2500, and we expect to blow that out of the water,” she said.
In addition to collecting donations, Reid is selling ovarian cancer awareness bracelets. She has also began manufacturing hats and t-shirts with her team name. She has even copyrighted the Teal the New Pink logo in hopes of mass producing her awareness-raising products one day.
“You can't find stuff. You want to go buy a t-shirt with ovarian cancer awareness, they don't exist, so we created our own,” she said.
Although Reid has never participated in Relay for Life before, she is very excited about the all-night event.
“The reason that it's walked overnight is because it's to reiterate the fact that cancer never sleeps,” she said. “The goal is for at least one member of your team to be on the track at all times.”
The Morgan County event will begin with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. on April 20. The 12-hour relay will begin at 7 p.m. with a survivors’ lap to honor members of the community who have struggled with cancer. For the second lap, survivors will be joined by the caregivers who supported them.
“The goal is to really celebrate the survivors who have fought a battle with cancer and are still going,” said Libby Fennell, a community manager for the American Cancer Society who is helping to organize the event.
Reid said that she expects the night to be emotional for her and her family. In addition to Lily and her husband, Mike, Reid will be joined by her father, sister and step-daughter.
Fennell and Reid both stress that the night will be a fun time for the entire community to celebrate survival and raise money and awareness.
“It's kind of like a fair atmosphere. All the teams will have different vending, food, games,” Fennell said. “We encourage the whole community to come out. It's $10 to participate if someone wanted to just come out for the night of the relay.”
In addition to walking, Teal the New Pink will be selling teal cotton candy all night.
“It's nice to see people that are survivors that are active, and [Christy]'s always got a smile on her face, and she's very determined to get the cause out there,” Fennell said.
While her family has gotten the cold shoulder from other cancer support groups, Reid said the American Cancer Society is an organization she feels passionate about because of the aid they have offered her during her treatment.
“The American Cancer Society was the only organization that stepped up and were like, 'We understand that this is a hard, rocky road right now in your life, and we're happy to do anything,'” she said. “They have a 24-hour call line if you ever are down, you can just call, and there's someone to talk to.”
While Christy has never taken advantage of any of the major services offered by the society, such as free rides and wig fitting, she says having them in the building supporting her during her chemotherapy at Dekalb Medical Center in Decatur kept her morale up.
“One day I was at chemo—and chemo makes you cold. You're freezing, and you're sitting there, and you've got your chemo blanket and your chemo socks, and you're cold. And the [American Cancer Society] woman comes in, and she's just talking, and she leaves. About a half an hour later, she leaves and comes back with a stocking cap. She was like, 'Your head just looked cold!' They did something for me,” she said.
Reid invites anyone interested in spreading ovarian cancer awareness or supporting the American Cancer Society to join Teal the New Pink by visiting relayforlife.org and searching for Madison, GA.
Printed in the March 22, 2012 edition