Good Deeds & Awards Articles

Cycling for Awareness, Research and a Cure

by Deb Silverthorn

The sixth Wheel to Survive, put on by Be The Difference Foundation (BTDF), returns from 9am to 3pm on February 18 to the Aaron Family JCC. The four ovarian cancer survivors who created the foundation are the driving force behind the $2 million donated since the wheels began spinning.

The first of the founders, Jill Bach, a wife and mother of two who’ll celebrate 11 years of survivorship in April, was 44 when a “cough” lasted six weeks.  Expecting bronchitis, her world was rocked when x-rays showed an obscured image of her left lung.  A biopsy and then PET scan revealed stage IV 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.

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” received a stage 3 diagnosis. After a year of treatments and 11 years of associated issues, she is now 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,” said Lentscher.

After her ovarian cancer diagnosis at 48, Julie Shrell’s BRCA1 testing proved positive.  “There’s a lot about ovarian cancer symptoms that people don’t recognize,” said Shrell, a senior residential mortgage loan officer who is married and the mother of three.  “I had classic symptoms and some lesser known but never imagined they were a big deal.”

Helen Gardner, of blessed memory, was a 55-year-young wife and mother of three when she died on August 20, 2014.  Gardner researched, sought life-extending treatments, and made 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 women will develop ovarian cancer as will 39 percent of women who inherit 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 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.

Lazarex Foundation, one of BTDF’s beneficiaries, helps make sure women find and get to treatments. Unique in providing assistance for FDA clinical trial participation, airfare, parking, housing, additional medical testing and the identification of trial options, they’ve helped 3000-plus patients.

“Be The Difference helped 15 of this year’s patients with their $35,000 earmarked for ovarian cancer patients,” said Program Services Coordinator Erin Miller, whose husband Mike was diagnosed in 2003 with pancreatic cancer. “We’ve been there.  Our path allows us to help others find time and some peace.”

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 also as a journey of human survival.  “We’re serving survivors and others touched by cancer, but there’s more to do,” said Lentscher.  “We want to, we will, Be The Difference!”

The ladies look forward to when ovarian cancer is a chronic disease with lifesaving treatments, and ultimately hope for a cure.  Until then, their mission is to support and provide hope for women fighting the disease. Hope keeps their wheels spinning.

Email: wts@bethedifferencefoundation.org or visit 

www.bethedifferencefoundation.org  for Wheel to Survive 2018 registration.

Use promocode “GoodLife” for $10 discounted registration.

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