#Health & Fitness

Stopping the Cycle: Biking Against Ovarian Cancer

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Stopping the Cycle: Biking Against Ovarian Cancer

For women at risk, early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is crucial to survival. 

Atlanta, GA-March 30, 2010—Ovarian cancer took away Kelli Erbar’s mother, grandmother, and possibly her great-grandmother, who reportedly died of “stomach cancer.” So she’s fighting back. On April 24, Erbar will cycle six hours to spread the word about ovarian cancer, the silent killer.

As one of dozens of indoor cyclers, she’ll participate in the seventh annual Ovarian Cycle, a 100-virtual-mile fitness fundraiser in five U.S. cities benefiting ovarian cancer research. (See www.ovariancycle.org.)

“The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness and funding that will lead to an early detection test for ovarian cancer,” she explains. “Without a test, there’s no definitive way to make an accurate and early diagnosis. We’re totally in the dark about this disease. Most women aren’t even diagnosed until the third or fourth stage and then it’s too late.”

According to the American Cancer Society, 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year; of that number, 15,000 will not survive. 

As Erbar approaches the next phase of her life, hormonal changes can “kick-start” cancer as it did with her mother; and she worries that she may be next. Studies show that each successive generation with the genetic variant BRCA is more prone to the disease.

 “I have a sense of urgency about me since the losses,” reports Erbar, a forty-seven-year-old Atlanta wife and mother. “Although I stay positive about my future, I know I’m a potential fourth generation [to get this disease].”

To protect herself, Erbar bikes and swims, participates in ovarian cancer studies, and gets checked twice a year with a pelvic exam, sonogram, and CA-125 test. This blood test is an unreliable marker for women who have not been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but the best test currently available. The hope is to find a reliable marker to screen for ovarian cancer at the earlier stages and to improve treatment methods.

“The problem with the test is simple,” explains Dr. Benedict Benigno, a gynecologic oncologist and founder/CEO of the Ovarian Cancer Institute, which studies cancer cells. “With the CA-125, there are too many false positives, often producing unnecessary anxiety in women who are healthy. But consider the alternative.”

Erbar does, often. That’s why she decided to take action. For the second spring, she will participate in Ovarian Cycle Ride to Change the Future™ on April 24, at the Midtown Athletic Club in Atlanta. There she’ll pedal six hours on an indoor cycle in her fight against ovarian cancer.  

Training is already underway at area gyms. Proceeds go to the Ovarian Cancer Institute, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Fund. Ovarian Cycle, which started in Atlanta, is already in five locations: Atlanta, Birmingham, Boulder, Steamboat Springs, and Tallahassee.

Founded in 2004 by fitness expert Bethany Diamond, Ovarian Cycle was her way of coping with the loss of her best friend, Debbie Green Flamm, to ovarian cancer. “I felt so helpless after her death. Cycling and wellness just seemed like the perfect fit,” she recalls. “So each spring we put our butts on those hard seats for six long hours in memory of women we’ve lost and in honor of our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends, whom we wish to keep safe.”

Ovarian Cycle has already raised $645,000 to fight this battle. Each year the organization helps men and women get into shape and raise funds for life-saving research that will lead to a reliable, early diagnostic test. 

“I’m passionate about Ovarian Cycle,” reports Erbar. “This is my second event in memory of lost loved ones and in honor of my daughter, so researchers can find a cure.” Erbar has had genetic testing and falls into the unknown category. “I can’t change the future,” she says, “but I can ask myself: what can I do to make myself the best Kelli I can be?” 

Kelli will be riding once again in memory of her mother, Deanna. If you wish to register for the ride or donate, go to the website, www.ovariancycle.org. Team riding is also possible if you’re unable to complete the entire six hours.