September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and we’re taking some time to get to know Runsi Sen, Founder of Ovarcome AND producer of My 2nd Act in Houston, coming up in spring 2017. NOU Magazine’s Cindy Chafin interviews Runsi as she prepares for the big show in Houston as well as for for the month of September – Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month -and all of the great opportunities to promote the mission of Ovarcome and ovarian cancer awareness.
Runsi, your beautiful mother had ovarian cancer. Can you tell us about some of your cancer journey as a co-survivor? Did she – or you – ever expect her to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer? Or with any cancer for that matter?
Cancer didn’t run in our family and the possibility never occurred to us, even though my mother exhibited symptoms for quite a while. We attributed it to digestive issues under the guidance of experienced front-line physicians. A classic story of a family unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer – never expected her to be diagnosed of cancer, of any kind.
What were some of the unique challenges her diagnosis brought to her life and to your life as a co-survivor? How did those challenges bring personal inspiration to your NOU life after cancer as a co-survivor, as you founded Ovarcome?
I learned of my mother’s diagnosis over the phone – we were separated by 10,000 miles. What followed in the next 11 months were many trips to India where my mother lived, to be by her side whenever she needed me. My mother was the rock of my life – my inspiration, my best friend, my worst critic, my mentor, my champion and the person I could always seek forgiveness from. She was diagnosed with stage IV Ovarian Cancer in early 2008, and bid farewell to us with grace and dignity within 11 months.
Cancer mutilated her body – she lost her battle, but her life ended in her own terms. My mother’s last wish was to bid farewell with dignity, amidst all her loved ones. I am happy to have fulfilled her sincere wish. She was never put on ventilation or any other form of life support. All her relatives and friends came to say goodbye to her on her last day. I sat beside her and watched her breathe her last in peace, just the way she wanted it- with all her loved ones around her in the same room.
She passed away leaving me defeated and directionless. While struggling to embrace her profound loss, I also experienced two back to back miscarriages. I felt like I was being pulled into an abyss of misery – but the darkness turned out to be my conduit that propelled me towards recognizing my life’s true purpose in creating Ovarcome.
Our magazine is called NOU (NEW+YOU). Because of your cancer journey as a co-survivor, you started this wonderful organization, Ovarcome. This is clearly part of your NOU life – a 2nd Act, perhaps. What do you hope to accomplish with this next phase of your life? Through Ovarcome or in other parts of your life?
I responded to my life’s calling and in my mother’s memory, founded Ovarcome – a global ovarian cancer foundation with the mission to raise global awareness, to fund research in search of a cure, and to provide financial support to underprivileged women in the U.S. as well as developing nations in their valiant fight against ovarian cancer. With the help of a phenomenal Board, dedicated volunteers, donors & supporters, and countless blessings, in a short span of 4 years, Ovarcome has awarded more than $75,000 in research, have helped several women with our OvarCare financial assistance program both nationally and internationally – a program that has grown from 1 to 17 hospitals in 2 years, and have hosted many seminars and awareness campaigns to raise awareness on ovarian cancer worldwide.
On one of my recent trips to India, I met an international Ovarcome beneficiary, 47-year-old Rina, a stage 3C ovarian survivor, who traveled on train for 3 hours, on a boat for 2 and then walked 45 minutes to come meet with me. She said, I represented “renewed hope and faith in her life”. I still have the note from our 1st OvarCare recipient in the US, Crystal Marie Brown. Crystal said “I am grateful for your thoughtfulness and your kindness. I will never forget what you and Ovarcome have done for me. Thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart.” My life’s mission is to help as many Rina-s and Crystal-s as I possibly can.
Ovarcome is my humble effort to support such women who battle this disease everyday gracefully and resiliently. Ovarcome is my tribute to every mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife and significant other that has been touched by ovarian cancer or has lost their battle against it. Ovarcome is my dream of a world that is free from the scourge of cancer. This is my 2nd Act – I am committed to saving lives of women around the world through education, awareness, empowerment, early action, and support for the underserved.
Runsi, someone reading this will no doubt be inspired by your story, and they might be encouraged to make some much needed 2nd Act changes in their life. What advice can you offer them?
When you find your calling and your purpose, you will know it – once you do, take that leap of faith. Every sentence starts with one letter and every vision starts with a dream – take that step, own it, be prepared to learn from failures, celebrate each small victory, seek advice, question the need, be resilient, embrace uncertainty, believe in your convictions, love fiercely and always have faith in your strength to overcome.
What’s next for you and for Ovarcome? What’s REALLY next – as in this month! As I mentioned before, it’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so what’s in your immediate future?
September is our most favorite month of the year – we are working tirelessly to raise awareness worldwide. New programs, services, collaborations and partnerships are all in the horizon. We couldn’t have chosen a better month to launch our new program called OvarEmbrace, a Chemo Care & Comfort Program envisioned by an ovarian cancer survivor, crusader and Ovarcome Ambassador. We are also hosting our Annual Conference on September 30, bringing a powerhouse of speakers to educate the community on ovarian and women’s cancers. We will be hosting international grassroots awareness campaigns in India and Africa. We will be at conferences and seminars hosted by our partners to raise awareness. We are adding more hospitals nationwide to our list this month to offer our OvarCare financial assistance program. The month will come and go, but we will continue to strive to positively impact the lives of the communities we serve. Please stay connected to our progress via our Facebook and Twitter platforms (www.facebook.com/ovarcome, www.twitter.com/ovarcome)
As for me, teal is personal and teal is my life’s mission. It’s been years since my mother’s passing and the memories are still fresh in my mind. I feel happy to realize that she passed away peacefully, with grace and dignity and now I am here to carry on her legacy. I feel fortunate to have found my purpose and passion in life through Ovarcome, and that too, as a path illuminated for me by my mother. Her death gave me as much to gain and receive, as her life. On ovarian cancer awareness month, I celebrate and honor the incredibly amazing woman my mother is, someone not confined by life and death- her spirit will live on through this foundation.
My mother is and will always remain my inspiration to Ovarcome.