By Emily Williams
Lori Livingston’s mother, Norma, was 65 years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
After seeing an internist for minor symptoms, Livingston’s mother was given the diagnosis and went on to endure a nine-hour surgery, experimental drugs and numerous rounds of chemotherapy over the course of 13 months before passing away.
Livingston left behind her three daughters, who have carried on her legacy with the mission of curing the cancer to which she succumbed.
“It will be 26 years this October since her death and back then there was little research and treatment options and the mortality rate was extremely high,” Livingston said.
In 2002, she started the Motherwalk 5K walk and run, to be held this year on May 12, as a way to not only aid in the fight against ovarian cancer and to spread awareness, but also as a way to celebrate her mother’s life.
Livingston and her two sisters were born in New Jersey, raised by a mother who spoke of the importance of giving back.
“My mom was so special because she spent much of her adult life walking her friends through various cancers and raising money for cancer research for our, then small, local hospital in New Jersey,” Livingston said. “She taught us to give to others and this was important in carrying her legacy forward.”
Norma was an avid volunteer within her own community and was a constant support system to friends, family and strangers alike. From her mother, Livingston said she learned the importance of strength and kind- ness, which she has since tried to emulate.
“I wanted to make a difference in the world of ovarian cancer and found that the foundation was a wonderful avenue to pursue my dream of finding treatment options, early detection and cures,” she said.
In addition, the event is just another way Livingston said she is able to share and celebrate the life of her mother with her children.
Her children were not born yet when her mother died, but through shared family stories and events such as this, they have been able to celebrate the life of Norma.
For their mother’s birthday, Livingston’s kids began a fundraiser campaign on Facebook for the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation in honor of their grandmother.
“It’s my hope and dream that one day it will become their passion and they can carry on in my mom’s memory,” Livingston said. “They never had the opportunity to meet my mom, but know so much about her and her life.”
In its inception, Livingston said, Motherwalk was just a small group walking in Crestline, but it has expanded over the years. Just last year, more than 700 people participated in the event.
Two years after Motherwalk was founded, the Norma Livingston Ovarian Cancer Foundation was founded to serve the same purpose on a larger scale.
In addition to Motherwalk, the foundation hosts a variety of events throughout the year and has raised and donated more than $1.3 million to ovarian cancer research.
“The event pays homage to my mom by reliving her life and seeing that other women now have choices in their care and several types of treatment available,” Livingston said. “Her birthday was May 21st and being so close to Mother’s Day it was always special in our family.”
Beyond funding research, the organization hosts various events throughout the year to spread aware- ness about the slight symptoms that, if ignored, typically lead to late diagnosis of ovarian cancer.
Livingston said that, when her mother was diagnosed, it was during a routine visit to her internist because of a few seemingly innocuous symptoms: a cough, some weight gain and a bit of abdominal discomfort.
For many years, ovarian cancer was dubbed “the silent killer” under the assumption that the cancer didn’t display major symptoms until it had spread, which recent studies have disproved.
At Motherwalk and the foundation’s other events, Livingston said that one major goal is to educate women on the acronym BEAT.
BEAT stands for bloating, eating less, abdominal pain and trouble with bladder – the four major symptoms of ovarian cancer.
This year’s Motherwalk will take place at Homewood Central Park, beginning at 8 a.m. The event will include a 5K run/walk and a one-mile fun run, followed by a survivor recognition and awards ceremony.
For more information and registration, visit motherwalk.com. ❖