Donovan Lowe, of Sterling Heights, got involved with ovarian cancer awareness activism after his mother, Doreen Lowe, pictured, was diagnosed with the disease in 2021.

Donovan Lowe, of Sterling Heights, got involved with ovarian cancer awareness activism after his mother, Doreen Lowe, pictured, was diagnosed with the disease in 2021.

Photo provided by Donovan Lowe

Activists with local roots promote ovarian cancer awareness

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 4, 2022


STERLING HEIGHTS — Donovan Lowe, of Sterling Heights, remembers what it was like last year when his mother got strange symptoms of stomach pain and bloating.

His family quickly learned, in June 2021, that she had late-stage ovarian cancer.

“Through the whole time, I was trying to hold the whole family together, be the rock and emotional support,” he said. “My mom was super healthy, and we never thought that she of all people would have something like this.”

Lowe said his mother, Doreen Lowe, has since gone through surgery and chemotherapy, and has entered remission, adding that he is “very grateful that she made it through.” But the experience made him want to inform others about the disease and its symptoms.

“I’m not a woman myself, and I don’t have to worry about it, but I can at least spread awareness of it,” he said.

So Lowe reached out to the nonprofit Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance and then the city of Sterling Heights to do just that. During a Sept. 20 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, those efforts paid off when the council unanimously agreed to observe September as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

As a result, to commemorate the campaign, the city lit the Halo sculpture on Hall Road teal. The lighting started Sept. 29 and was set to continue until Oct. 2, according to the city.

During the meeting, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor praised MIOCA activists for informing the public about the disease.

“We don’t give enough credit to folks like you that just do it for the sheer reason of just getting the word out, so we thank you for that,” he said.

Diann Glaza-Helbling, MIOCA’s program specialist and event coordinator, explained that her group uses the awareness month to ask communities to decorate with teal — often through ribbons — and to get people thinking about ovarian cancer, its signs and the need to prevent and cure it.

According to Glaza-Helbling — who also was raised in Sterling Heights — the disease is the most lethal among the different kinds of gynecological cancer.

“Every 23 minutes, a person is diagnosed in the United States with ovarian cancer, and unlike breast cancer (and) having a mammogram, our cancer has no early detection tests, no early screening test that will tell you that you have this disease,” she said during the council meeting.

The American Cancer Society’s website says around 1 in 78 women will get an ovarian cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. The website adds that, according to estimated statistics for the U.S. this year, around 19,880 women will get an ovarian cancer diagnosis, and around 12,810 women will die from the disease.

“This is not an age discrimination disease. We have survivors who are 5 years old, 10 years old ,15, 20,” Glaza-Helbling said. “Unfortunately, it is always a late-stage diagnosis, and the … survival rate is five years.”

Glaza-Helbling added that ovarian cancer symptoms include abdominal or pelvic pain, frequent urination, bloating and eating issues such as a lack of appetite.

After the meeting, she said her group recommends getting checked out and being persistent in investigating “if something doesn’t feel right.”

“We tell folks, if you have these symptoms 12 times in a month, see your doctor,” she said.

She added that her group also clears up misconceptions about ovarian cancer. For instance, a pap smear doesn’t test for it, and it’s still possible to get it even after having a hysterectomy, she said.

Glaza-Helbling said MIOCA, which was established in 2011, assists people with ovarian cancer as well as their families through education, advocacy for research, survivor gift totes, support groups and more.

Last May or June, Lowe reached out to Glaza-Helbling and told her his family’s story. Upon asking if there was any way he could help the organization, she mentioned that Sterling Heights hadn’t joined an ovarian cancer awareness campaign yet.

So Lowe decided to become a MIOCA volunteer and ask the city himself.

“She said, ‘You want to try, go do your best,’” Lowe said. “So I said sure. I reached out to the city and asked if there was any way we can do anything to spread the awareness. They made September ovarian cancer awareness month in the city, and they also agreed to light up the Halo to teal.”

Looking back, Lowe says he thought the city’s response to his activism was great.

“I really haven’t been involved with the organization for very long, but I was glad to make a difference right away,” he said. “It doesn’t take years of doing stuff. It just takes the effort to do it.”

Learn more about the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance by visiting Learn more about Sterling Heights by visiting