Wheel to Survive returns Feb. 18
By Deb Silverthorn
Special to the TJP
Be The Difference Foundation’s Wheel to Survive participants are racing with thousands of supporters and founders.
The sixth Wheel to Survive returns from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18, at the Aaron Family JCC. Practice rides are underway. The force behind the $2 million donated since the wheels began spinning has been a fearsome foursome: Jill Bach, Lynn Lentscher, Julie Shrell and the late Helen Gardner.
Jill Bach, a wife and mother of two who’ll celebrate 11 years of survivorship in April, was 44 when what she thought was just a cough lasted six weeks. Expecting bronchitis, her world was rocked when X-rays showed an obscured image of her left lung, revealing nodules. A biopsy and PET scan confirmed an extensive disease, most likely stage 4 ovarian cancer.
“Given the statistics I felt I survived for a reason and that was Be The Difference Foundation,” said Bach, who inherited the BRCA1 mutation. Her father had no knowledge he was a carrier before being tested himself.
Now a retired president and founder of a web development and interactive agency, Bach worked through her illness. Blogging a form of self-therapy and communication, her work and family schedule kept her feeling healthy.
Lynn Lentscher, a wife, mother of three and grandmother of three, is a retired real estate and title professional. At 53, the athletic picture-of-health woman experienced painful and prolonged diarrhea. After palpating a mass and an elevated CA125 test, Lentscher who’d previously had a hysterectomy, agreed to have her ovaries removed. She woke up to a stage 3 diagnosis. After six months of chemo, a second-look surgery showing more cancer, there was more chemo, then radiation. She endured a year of treatments and 11 years of associated issues. Now she is 18 years ovarian cancer-free.
“I prayed for survival, but also that if I survived I’d know my purpose. I understood the importance of offering hope,” Lentscher said. “The stars aligned, the four of us met and we were strong and courageous.”
Julie Shrell’s paternal grandmother had breast cancer twice — three decades apart. After her ovarian cancer diagnosis, at 48, BRCA1 testing proved positive, her family history revealed.
“There’s a lot about ovarian cancer symptoms that people don’t recognize,” said Shrell, a senior residential mortgage loan officer, married and the mother of three. “I had classic symptoms and some lesser-known, but never imagined they were a big deal. I was wrong.
“It’s funny that I hardly remember life before cancer,” Shrell said, adding that she’d focused on work and the “Mom thing.”
“I still do those things but with more intention.”
Helen Gardner, of blessed memory, was a 55-year-young wife and mother of three when she died Aug. 20, 2014. Gardner researched and sought life-extending treatments, making the most of her life. Her family is still dedicated to the Foundation as husband Gary remains on the board of directors.
About 1.3 percent of all women will develop ovarian cancer. For those with inherited gene mutations, 39 percent of women with the BRCA1 mutation and 11 to 17 percent who inherit the BRCA2 mutation, will develop ovarian cancer by age 70. The likelihood that breast and ovarian cancers are associated with these genes is highest in families with histories of multiple cases of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, where one or more family members have two primary cancers, ovarian cancer at any age, or those of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. When detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate of ovarian cancer is greater than 92 percent. With vague symptoms, and late diagnosis, only 50 percent live that long.
Making sure women find and get to treatments is the goal of the Lazarex Foundation, one of BTDF’s beneficiaries. Unique in providing assistance for FDA clinical trial participation, airfare, parking, tolls, housing, additional medical testing and the identification of trial options, they’ve helped 3000-plus patients.
“Be The Difference impacted 15 of this year’s patients — their $35,000 earmarked for ovarian cancer patients, that need surpassed months ago. We continue clinical trial navigations, expense reimbursements, paying for someone to accompany the patient — it all adds up,” said Program Services Coordinator Erin Miller, whose husband Mike was diagnosed in 2003 with pancreatic cancer. Mike, and Erin’s sister Dana, searched for options and Mike lived another 19 months and Dana founded Lazarex to help others. “We’ve been there. Our path allows us to help others find time and some peace.”
In 2016, rides in Austin, South Florida, Houston, Lubbock and Northern California’s Bay Area, directed by Jon Mize, also supported Clearity Foundation, Gynecology Research Lab at the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center, MD Anderson’s Ovarian Cancer Moon Shots Program, and the Ovarian Cancer Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bach, Lentscher, and Shrell volunteer at UT Southwestern and Survivors Teaching Students, speaking to patients and helping medical students see cancer not only as statistics, but a journey of human survival.
“We’re serving survivors and others touched but there’s more to do. We need to share more stories, find early diagnostic testing, better treatments and a cure,” said Lentscher. “We want to, we will, Be The Difference!”
The ladies look forward to a future when ovarian cancer is a chronic disease with lifesaving treatments, ultimately hoping for a cure. Until then, their mission is to support and provide hope for women fighting the disease. Hope is the drive, keeping their wheels spinning.
Fore more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bethedifferencefoundation.org for Wheel to Survive 2018 registration. Use promotional code “TJP” for $10 discounted registration.