By Emily Williams
It is estimated that more than 33,000 women will die this year as a result of a gynecologic cancer, according to the Laura Crandall Brown Foundation.
Compared to the rest of the country, the state of Alabama is tied for first in the nation in cervical cancer deaths and ranks sixth for ovarian cancer deaths.
Throughout September, the nation will recognize Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month. In Birmingham, that means the foundation is gearing up for its eighth annual A State of Teal awareness campaign and the 11th annual Head Over Teal 5K/10K.
Since 2009, the foundation has granted more than $500,000 to programs researching methods of early detection of ovarian cancer. In addition, the foundation provides educational outreach to promote gynecologic cancer awareness, as well as patient support.
“We are delighted to continue our awareness campaign in September,” said Ramona Graffeo, LCBF executive director. “With no early detection or screening for four of the five gynecologic cancers, spreading gynecologic cancer awareness information is vital to women of all ages and a cornerstone of what we do here at LCBF.”
Formed for Laura
Laura Crandall Brown passed away at 25 while battling ovarian cancer. Childhood friend Constance Rutledge said the foundation was inspired by Brown’s desire to help other women fighting gynecologic cancers.
Rutledge first met Brown in middle school, but they become close friends after reconnecting in college.
“I loved everything about Laura,” Rutledge said, noting that Brown was the kind of friend who offered a grounding presence.
“She loved to read,” she said. “She told me once that she loved the way books smelled. When she picked up a book, she would smell the pages and that’s how she’d decide to read one.”
Brown also was known for her artistic ability. One of the most precious things Rutledge owns is a door that Brown painted for her.
“I pass it daily and think of her and tell my kids about her,” Rutledge said.
Following Brown’s death, Rutledge became involved in the newly formed Laura Crandall Brown Foundation as a way to honor her friend’s memory and feel connected to her.
“We used to put on an event called Pirates & Ninjas, which was a party that originated in college, to get the young adult crowd involved and raise money for the foundation,” she said. “It was really an opportunity for a lot of Laura’s friends to get together and have a fun night in memory of her.”
The annual Head Over Teal run was Rutledge’s first experience running – or trying to run – a 5K. The event wasn’t so much about running a perfect 5K, but about the cause.
“It was really great to be part of something that was created to honor (Laura) and raise money toward finding early detection and ultimately a cure for the cancer that took her from us way too soon,” Rutledge said.
Following CDC guidelines, this year’s Head Over Teal run will be held virtually from Sept. 18 to Sept. 26. Runners can choose to run a 5K or 10K, documenting their race time, sharing photos of supporters and connecting with the LCBF staff and other participants by posting on social media with the notations #headoverteal and #headovertealgoesvirtual.
Supporters can follow along on Facebook and Twitter, @LCBFoundation; Instagram, @lcbfoundation; and YouTube and Flickr at Laura Crandall Brown Foundation.
For more information, visit thinkoflaura.org/headoverteal.