St. Clair ShoresSeptember 4, 2013
Bridal boutique helps to raise awareness of ovarian cancer
By Kristyne E. Demske
C & G Staff Writer
ST. CLAIR SHORES — By day, she works hard to make sure every bride looks and feels her best on her special day.
And when she’s off the clock, Julia Sultes, of St. Clair Shores, is working hard to make sure women know more about the “silent” disease that took the life of a woman she considered family.
Sultes, a bridal consultant at Bombshell Bridal Boutique on Harper Avenue, said she has been active with the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MIOCA) since her mother’s best friend, Connie Toigo, lost her battle with the disease at age 47.
Toigo was diagnosed in September 2009 and died less than four months later.
“They call it the silent killer because you have no idea you have it,” Sultes said. “There’s no testing for ovarian cancer — you have to know the signs or symptoms. Unless you know someone who’s affected by it or you have an amazing OBGYN, you’re not going to know.”
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and, because of her work with MIOCA, Sultes had told her employers — Amanda Cover and Amy Pruder Cover — that she would be volunteering even more with the organization at that time.
“I’m like, ‘OK, they’ll pay for me to do a run or something like that,’” Sultes said.
Instead, they decided that the shop will donate 5 percent of all sales in September to MIOCA, and will hold an open house from 4-8 p.m. Sept. 20 to raise funds and awareness of the disease.
Sultes said Toigo had no idea she had ovarian cancer until it was too late.
“When she was diagnosed, she had had it for years and never knew, and she had come back from overseas and thought she had a virus,” Sultes said.
Unfortunately, said Marcie Paul, the vice president of MIOCA, that story is all too common.
“Because there is no test for ovarian cancer, more than 80 percent are diagnosed very late stage,” said Paul, a four-year survivor whose cancer is in remission. “That’s one of the reasons that ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological cancer and is the leading cause of cancer deaths for women.”
She said the survival rate for those with ovarian cancer has barely budged in 40 years. About 15 percent are diagnosed when the disease is still treatable, and while 75 percent may go into remission, three-quarters of the patients diagnosed with a late-stage of the disease will see their cancer recur. According to MIOCA, women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1975 had a five-year survival rate of 34.8 percent. The number today is about 46 percent.
Paul said they hope the Bombshell Bridal event will help to raise the profile of the disease, as well as raise money for the organization to keep lobbying for federal dollars for research.
“A lot of what we do is we promote early detection and, for the public, we provide symptom education,” Paul said.
The symptoms are hard to identify, Sultes said, and include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full fast, fatigue and back pain. She’s hoping that many people will come to the open house just to learn more about the disease and the MIOCA organization.
Sultes said they plan for the event to include raffles, live music, refreshments and education on the disease.
“The most important thing is, we’re really trying to get people in the door,” she said. “The only way to catch this is to know the signs and symptoms.
“Awareness is key — donations are a plus.”
Paul said MIOCA is working with medical students to try and raise the profile of the disease, bringing survivors in to speak to healthcare students to “give them the real life story and the real life manifestations of the subtle symptoms of ovarian cancer.” Putting a real face to the disease “makes it indelibly memorable,” she said.
Sultes said they are still looking for donations and sponsors for raffle prizes. Those interested can email her at email@example.com.
Admission will be free to the Sept. 20 open house at Bombshell Bridal Boutique, 30120 Harper Ave. Call (586) 854-8578 for more information or visit www.bombshellbridalboutique.com.
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