Jennie McGihon was happy to walk more than three miles in Washington, D.C., on behalf of City of Hope. After all, her cancer cells had taken a much longer trip when they traveled across the U.S. to City of Hope for testing.
|Jennie McGihon rallies Walk for Hope participants. (Photo by Matt Glass)|
McGihon was one of about 750 participants in City of Hope’s inaugural Walk for Hope Presented by Staples on the National Mall. The April 10 event’s mission to raise awareness and funds against women’s cancers was particularly personal for her: McGihon was diagnosed with both ovarian and endometrial cancer in 2009.
Her story shows the breadth of people and experiences touched by women’s cancers, including breast, cervical, ovarian and endometrial tumors. It also demonstrates how cancer can transform lives.
“I’m a big believer that adversity gives you opportunity in life, and you have to turn your pain into purpose,” said McGihon, 34, who lives in the nation’s capital. “I have gained so much more than I have lost as a result of my cancer.”
McGihon was busily working in health-care communications, dabbling in interior design and hanging out with friends when she began having suspicious irregular bleeding. Her tests revealed a shock: two separate but related cancers.
The average woman with ovarian cancer is diagnosed at age 63; McGihon cut more than three decades off that mark. The unusual diagnosis led her treatment team to send her tumor cells to City of Hope and its Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. While most cancers develop seemingly randomly, 5 to 10 percent of malignancies are believed to stem from genetic mutations that can be passed down through generations of families, and scientists have developed tests to look for these mutations.
Her test showed some abnormalities, but results were inconclusive. McGihon already knew what she needed to know, though. Life would never be the same, but she vowed she would embrace it, cherishing every moment spent with her family and friends.
She underwent surgery and chemotherapy to treat her disease and finished treatment in September 2009. Since then, she has completed triathlons, started a blog about her journey and become an outspoken advocate for research to end women’s cancers.
McGihon eagerly signed up for Walk for Hope to underscore her support for research of all women’s cancers, and later toured City of Hope’s Duarte campus and recorded several videos to back the event.
“I love the mission of supporting treatment and research of all women’s cancers,” McGihon said, “not just breast, not just gynecological, but the whole spectrum.”
To watch McGihon’s videos supporting Walk for Hope, visit City of Hope’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/cityofhopeonline. To read about her experience in her own words, visit areyoutherecanceritsmejennie.blogspot.com.