Running Toward a Challenge 3

Kelly Cannova and the OVERRUN 5k: How 3.1 Miles Can Potentially Make a Huge Difference in Someone’s Life

When faced with unimaginable challenges in life, the instinct for some is to run away from them. Those who prefer to defy their fear may run directly into the challenge. And then there are those who go above and beyond and run for the challenge.

Leawood resident Kelly Cannova is one such individual.

In late 2011, her mother, now 72, was diagnosed with Stage 3C ovarian cancer, a revelation that seemed unbelievable to Cannova at the time.

“My mom was always the picture of health,” says Cannova. “She has always exercised, eaten well and does not smoke or drink. When we learned of her diagnosis, our lives were turned upside down.”

While the diagnosis may have temporarily stunned Cannova, she focused her energies on a more positive approach. First on her agenda was a visit with Dr. Andy Godwin, deputy director, The University of Kansas Cancer Center, who leads the center’s ovarian cancer research efforts. It was then she discovered that, although there is some research being done in the study of ovarian cancer, it is somewhat limited.

“There is a lag in the research as this is a difficult disease to decipher and federal funding is low,” Cannova emphasized. “There aren’t a lot of advocates for these women who are typically too sick to advocate for themselves. I realized they needed a stronger voice.”

That voice came in the form of a race event that Cannova, an avid runner since age 13, decided would be a great means by which to not only raise funds for ovarian cancer research, but also to raise awareness. On Sunday, October 25th, the fourth annual OVERRUN Ovarian Cancer 5k and 1 Mile Run/Walk will be held at 8:30 a.m. at the Southcreek Office Park at 7200 West 132nd Street in Overland Park.

Around the time Cannova learned of her mother’s diagnosis, she also learned that a longtime friend, Kristi O’Keefe, also of Leawood, had a sister who had been diagnosed two years earlier.  Together, they organized the race and The OVERRUN Ovarian Cancer Foundation, an organization with a mission of funding the much-needed research for this insidious disease.

If caught early, the prognosis for ovarian cancer can be good, but since the symptoms tend to mimic other ailments, the disease can quickly advance to an end-stage diagnosis.

According to the American Cancer Society, the four major symptoms of ovarian cancer are bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; feeling full quickly after eating or difficulty eating; and urinary symptoms such as increased frequency or urgency. While certainly other things can cause these symptoms, if they persist, then that is a good indicator to see a doctor.

Cannova spends countless hours throughout the year in preparation for this event, but embraces it as a true labor of love.

“Our board wants to educate women on the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer (which is designated by a teal ribbon color),” states Cannova. “We have lost too many mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and friends just because the symptoms are so subtle.”

Cannova feels blessed to have an amazing board, which also includes O’Keefe, Kelley Rast, Rae Letourneau and Jennifer Duke, all of whom have been touched by this disease in some manner.

“This is more than just another 5k Run/Walk or 1 Mile Walk,” she notes. “It’s a day of hope for family and friends touched by ovarian cancer, many of whom create teams, as well as a day of awareness for those who show up to run a 5k with a purpose.

Cannova is proud to say the race has generated $85,000 in funds to date, all of which goes directly to ovarian cancer research and patient advocacy in the Kansas City area, after event expenses.

“I am amazed and thankful for the outpouring of support from the community,” says Cannova.

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