Town Talk Features

Reaching Out: Sandy Sullivan of SLOCA

How long have you been a volunteer?
Five years.

What interested you in this particular cause? In 2013, I was on vacation and thought I had a hernia. When I got back, I went to my doctor and found out that it was an ovarian tumor. I underwent a hysterectomy and endured a summer of really intense chemotherapy. My oncology nurse was very involved with SLOCA, and she told me about it. I told her that if I survived, I would be an active member for as long as I lived, and that’s what I’ve done.

What kind of volunteer work are you involved with?
I participate in a medical education program called Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives. I started in 2014 and continue to this day. I share my story with medical students to give them a patient’s perspective. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are very common—bloating, abdominal pain, urinary frequency and difficulty eating. We educate those in the medical field about patients’ experiences with symptoms, treatment and after care and give them an increased awareness of the signs. It helps them remember it more when they hear from women who have actually gone through it. For several years, I’ve also worked at SLOCA’s annual gala, which is its biggest fundraiser. I volunteer with my sister and a friend I met during chemo who I am still very close to. We work the auction and do other jobs like setup and teardown. In 2015, when I was a first-year survivor, I was the keynote speaker at the gala, which was a really great experience. I gave a presentation about how important SLOCA was when I was diagnosed and how I wanted to give back. I’ve also worked at a SLOCA booth at community events and organize a team of 20 to 30 to participate in the annual Families Run for Ovarian Cancer. I’ve helped obtain donations and support from Emerson and Nidec, my former and current employers, respectively. Both companies are now very good sponsors, and I’m grateful for their support of me and SLOCA.

If you could do anything for the organization, what would it be?
There are so many things! SLOCA puts a lot of time and energy into educating women about the signs of ovarian cancer because there isn’t a reliable screening method, and the organization helps support them while they’re going through treatment, which costs a significant amount of money. I really would like to get the word out to the large corporations in St. Louis that there is a big need for funding.

St. Louis Ovarian Cancer Awareness (SLOCA): To impact ovarian cancer survivorship by promoting awareness of early warning signs and standards of care, funding ovarian cancer research, and supporting survivors.

Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography