The NLOCF Making a Difference Funds offer individuals and families a unique and personal way to pay tribute to loved ones affected by ovarian cancer. To create a fund, donors are asked for a commitment of $5,000. To reach this goal, you can host a fundraiser, donate immediate tax-deductible gifts of cash, stocks or other assets or planned gifts through wills, charitable gift annuities, pooled income funds, life insurance or charitable trusts. Staff from the Norma Livingston Foundation will assist you in setting up a Making a Difference Fund in your loved ones name, planning fundraising events, and tracking donations.
As part of this Fund, you or your loved one will have a personalized Tribute Page on the Foundation’s website to share your story and photographs. Whether you make a one-time gift to establish your Fund or continue to make ongoing contributions each year, your Fund will make a difference in other women’s lives.
Making A Difference Funds
A LIFE WELL-LIVED. A LOVE THAT ENDURES!
Warriors walk among us each day, and often we never know of their struggles. Some of these warriors are women who have been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and who fight for their lives with all their might. Carla Jo Rutland Allison valiantly fought Ovarian Cancer with all her strength and might until there simply were no more weapons left with which to fight. While she was fighting she also sought to help others in their battle with Ovarian Cancer. She befriended countless women over the almost 14-year struggle against the cancer that whispers.
Angels walk among us each day. These angels take the form of doctors, nurses, and technicians who know the odds regarding Ovarian Cancer and still get up each day and continue to fight the beast. They use their skills, talents, education, and love to help others and the Norma Livingston Cancer Foundation helps them in their fight.
Carla received well over 100 rounds of chemotherapy, numerous surgeries and procedures, and participated in four research studies. She was told that she, herself, might never benefit from those studies. Her response was that she hoped that something learned from being a “guinea pig”, in the studies might help other women in the future. Carla lived long enough to receive a form of genetic treatment from one of the research studies in which she participated. She never sat in the UAB GYN Infusion Unit without trying to uplift another woman there. She asked them about their own struggle, then would share her own story and ask for a phone number or address, and call or write encouragement to the women she came to know. Sadly, so many of them died during those 13.5 years while she was being treated. She strongly believed in research and support, and that is why she supported the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation for many years, and why, as she made her own funeral arrangements, stated that she wanted contributions to the NLOCF in lieu of floral remembrances.
The advancements in treatment methods and answered prayers during the years she fought allowed her to enjoy 39 years of marriage with her husband, Clay Allison. She was able to see her three daughters Jessica, Emma, and Audrey graduate, with two of them marrying. She saw three beautiful grandchildren become a part of her life and she a part of their memories. She was also able to receive genetic testing through the BRCA program which reassured her that her cancer was not genetically linked, so that her own daughters were no more likely than any other woman in the general population for an Ovarian Cancer diagnosis.
Carla was not someone who wanted to be at the forefront, seeking recognition. She, instead, quietly offered suggestions to other women for things she herself had experienced. She would ask for donations to the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation instead of a personal gift because she knew those donations would go to help and serve others so much longer than any gift she could receive herself. We, her family, learned after her death, that even while she was at home on hospice those last weeks, she was still making phone calls to encourage other warriors, fighting their own battles, while never mentioning her own assignment to hospice care.
Carla’s family, including her mother, Sally Rutland, and her two brothers, Ben and Darryl Rutland, made it their goal to establish a fund in her honor. It is her family and friends’ hope, wish, and prayer that others might read her story and feel compelled to help take up the fight she herself waged for so many years by continuing to support the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation.
BATTLE CRIES AND BUTTERFLIES
At certain times in our lives, our age becomes a signal of an approaching milestone. Twenty-four make us realize that we will soon be 25 and that we are truly becoming those adults that we thought we would never grow up to be. Thirty-four will remind us that we are edging to the sometimes dreaded 40. And then 44 whispers how quickly time has flown and we will soon be 50. But for Mary Kreamer Gifford, these ages were more than milestones, they became battle cries.
A little over a year after the death of her mother to breast cancer, Mary at the age of 24 had her own experience with breast cancer and with what would become her signature action; she stood tall and never looked back. She was determined to win this battle. And she did – for 10 years. Then 34 and another cry came out for another fight with breast cancer. Once again she kept her goal in sight and 10 years went by like a grateful sigh of a winner. Then at 44 she knew something was wrong and after insisting that her doctor pay attention, she was introduced to a new enemy – stage 4 ovarian cancer. Once again the warrior was ready.
She knew that the good things in her life were what mattered. She knew that having loving family and friends to share good food, good wine and travel to amazing places were worth the battle. Like a butterfly breaking from her cocoon, she stepped up and she stepped out. Mary began the aggressive fight and did things that she never imagined she could do. She spoke out. She became a founding member of the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation and she told her story in her sweet and quiet manner that made you know that you had met someone really extraordinary. She was a true example of how strong a spirit can become as she continued to enjoy her friends, her family and her travels. She was grateful for every moment.
Mary showed us that patience will bring persistence and persistence will become courage and from courage Mary showed everyone how to love each and every moment. One quiet Sunday morning, the battered warrior now a beautiful butterfly, chose a new adventure and took flight. Mary taught us that everyone is precious and every day is a gift. Mary is our reminder that although some battles will come on a whisper, you must meet them with a roar of courage and love.
A LEGACY OF GRACE
Mother Teresa said, “Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”
There are no words that better capture the essence of Kay Catrino Wilson. Kay spent her entire life loving other people, from her traditional Italian family in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to her husband of 41 years, Mark, who after meeting her only once, told his parents he had met “the woman he was going to marry.” Kay devoted herself to her two children, Walker and Katie, and never sent a lunch to school without a note or a treat tucked inside to remind them of her loving presence.
But she reached beyond her home and dedicated 41 years of her life to speech pathology. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and multiple Masters Degrees. She became an expert in her field and so many people remember her as the woman who literally gave them a voice. Kay gently taught stroke victims how to speak again, and gave children embarrassed by speech impediments the ability to speak confidently and be heard. She did what some would call impossible and even taught deaf patients to speak.
Kay reveled in life’s simple pleasures. She loved to bake her grandmother’s biscotti from scratch with her granddaughter, Greer. She treasured curling up on the sofa reading books to John Walker, her grandson, as long as his toddler attention span would allow. Kay looked for any opportunity to spend time with her brothers, sister and extended family which she held so dear.
She loved her church and the people there, the congregation of the First United Methodist Church in Jasper, Alabama, were brought to tears on many occasions when Kay and her husband joined together in song, their voices blending together in a harmony which was a perfect metaphor for their marriage.
When Kay received a diagnosis of Stage IIIC Ovarian Cancer, in January of 2010, she faced it with the same grace that had become synonymous with her throughout her life.
Kay fought with elegance and as always, looked for an opportunity to help others. Throughout her treatment, Kay teamed up with several organizations to raise money and awareness for Ovarian Cancer. She made sure she always had Teal Toes, she Sang her Ovaries Out and limped through the survivors lap of Relay for Life with a fractured foot and clutching the arm of a fellow survivor.
The Catrino women have passed down their motto for generations, “It can always be worse.” This mantra taught Kay to always see the silver lining, and the cup half full. Her olive skin only crinkled slightly around her almost black eyes with every smile and she had a dazzlingly bright smile for everyone she touched: her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her brothers and sister, her nieces and nephews, her church family, her students and patients, and even her nurses and doctors.
Kay Catrino Wilson was an extraordinarily rare woman because the strength of her loving relationships, and passion for life and helping others changed the people around her. She let no person ever come to her without leaving better and happier. She was “the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in her face, kindness in her eyes, kindness in her smile, kindness in her warm greeting.”
Very often, it’s only in retrospect, after a person has left this world that we take the time to reflect and see what a huge gap has been left in the world in their absence. The family and friends of Kay Catrino Wilson will miss her for decades to come but she left a legacy of grace and her good works will continue.
Her granddaughter will make Mimi’s Biscotti, and one day teach her own granddaughter to bake as well. Her husband will continue to sing. Her patients will speak with voices they couldn’t find on their own. Her children will continue to pack the perfect lunches for their children. Her extended family will remember her twinkling smile every time they gather, and the people who loved Kay the most will continue her fight against Ovarian Cancer. We will make sure we have Teal Toes, and we will give.
SHERRI ROMANOFF: A WIFE, A MOTHER, A GRANDMOTHER, A SISTER, AN AUNT, A FRIEND, A VOLUNTEER AND AN OVARIAN CANCER SURVIVOR
In 1989, at the age of 40, because of fibroid tumors, I had a partial hysterectomy leaving in my ovaries. In 1998, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Since that time I have been very conscious and aware of changes in my body. I am conscientious of going to my annual check up and go immediately if any medical concern arises. I have a file box filled with folders of my medical records. How did I miss this?
In the beginning of 2009, it seemed like over night I had gained an extra 15 pounds. My stomach looked like I was pregnant. Of course my clothes were tight. My back was hurting. I was told it was all part of aging. My symptoms began to really flare. That July, I was experiencing indigestion and was put on medication but that did nothing to help the symptoms. In August we were out of town and I started having severe stomach pain. I was constipated and couldn’t stop burping. I was miserable. As soon as I got home I went to my internist. She ordered a CT of my abdomen and found a moderate amount of free fluid. Immediately she got me into a gynecologist who preformed a transvaginal ultrasound and took a CA125 blood test. My CA125 was 512 and normal is less than 35.
Doctor Mack Barnes, my gynecological oncologist, then entered my life. With my symptoms, a high CA125 & fluid in my abdomen he felt we needed to do exploratory surgery. September 24, 2009 my life was forever changed as I was diagnosed with Stage 111C epithelial ovarian cancer.
After recovering from the shock of having cancer I knew my job for the next 6 months was to do everything I could to help the healing process…………physically , emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Throughout my recovery, I had a positive attitude, looked for rainbows and felt surrounded by angels. Yet even with all of the love and support I had around me, there were really tough days. Doctor Barnes had called this process a war and I was fighting for my life.
The pathologist report showed cancer on both ovaries, bladder, pelvic wall, omentum and my diaphragm. Doctor Barnes advised 6 cycles of chemo therapy lasting 6 months. On January 28, 2010, I was pronounced Cancer Free after my final cat scan. I am one of the lucky ones!
I could not have reached this point without the help and support of so many. My husband David, family, friends, Doctor Barnes, nurses, wellness practitioners and many people I do not even know. I have worn many hats in my 64 years. My newest hat and one I am most passionate about is bringing awareness to ovarian cancer and helping raise money for research for an early detection screening test. I had all the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer but I didn’t know them? My hope is that YOU will!