According to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, the probability that a woman will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer is greatest when she is between the ages of 55 and 64 years old.
So when 17-year-old Lyndsey Sexton was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year, she was one of the only 1 percent of women who are diagnosed with the disease before 20 years old.
Sexton was presented with the Turlock Firefighters’ 3rd Annual Pink Helmet Award on Friday for her demonstrated strength and bravery living with her diagnosis during the 18th annual Emanuel Cancer Center’s Women’s Cancer Awareness Night. This award is given each year to someone who represents the characteristics of a firefighter: compassion, bravery, honesty, commitment and courage.
Over the past year, Sexton has maintained a “positive attitude” as she endured surgery and 40 chemotherapy treatments. Following her treatments, however, results indicated that the cancer had spread to her liver and other organs. As a result, Sexton has since undergone additional surgery and started chemotherapy again.
Sexton was joined on Friday by other cancer survivors during the annual procession that kicks off the event. Among the stream of survivors was Sonja Iltis, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 24 years old.
This initial diagnosis is one of five that Iltis has received in her lifetime. She has since then been diagnosed with breast cancer two more times and ovarian cancer three times.
“I’ve been dealing with cancer for most of my life,” said Iltis. “So when I get in that survivors line and march in the procession and see everybody on their feet applauding—every year that grabs my heart in a way that surprises me. It’s emotional, impactful and powerful.”
Esther Theis was another cancer survivor that took part in the annual procession of survivors. Theis, who was diagnosed with breast cancer, said that she has attended the Women’s Cancer Awareness Night every year since its inception.
In addition to raising awareness, Theis said that this event also helps bring cancer survivors together.
“We have a really strong support group at Emanuel. We have become like a family,” said Theis. “We care about each other and we are always calling each other to see how they are doing if they are going through treatment or even if they’re not going through treatment.”
The annual event also featured Good Morning America news anchor Amy Robach, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after she got a mammogram in New York City’s Times Square for a segment on the morning news show.
Robach, who was 40 years old at the time, never had a mammogram before and thought the breast-cancer screening was not necessary since she had no history of cancer in her family. However, when her Good Morning America colleague and cancer survivor Robin Roberts urged her to get the test, she agreed.
“No one can tell me that a mammogram didn’t save my life. I know this much: it gave me the best possible chance to live as long as possible,” said Robach. “The sooner you find breast cancer, the best chance you have at surviving it.”
During the event, Emanuel Cancer Center Executive Director Michael Iltis announced that the center received $20,000 from the Bill and Elsie Cancer Endowment Fund. With this grant, the center will be able to provide free mammography services to at least 100 women. For more information, call 669-4600.