In the fight against ovarian cancer, the Sandy Rollman Foundation celebrates a milestone.
As the leaders of the Sandy Rollman Foundation, Robin Cohen (left) and Adriana Way are educating Philadelphia women about the dangers of ovarian cancer.
“I’m getting choked up—I’m sorry,” says Adriana Way, president of the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation. She recounts how her sister, Sandy, inspired her to help hundreds of Philly women fight the disease. But Way and CEO Robin Cohen have every reason to feel sentimental. The duo lead the fight against ovarian cancer throughout Greater Philadelphia and will celebrate the organization’s 15th anniversary with a gala on September 19 in observance of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
Sandy Rollman passed away in 2000, just six months after her diagnosis. “There was no information about ovarian cancer [at the time],” Way says. “When she passed, I felt like we couldn’t give up— that’s what she would want, to help other women who didn’t have the resources.” Ovarian cancer isn’t discussed as much as breast or prostate cancer, in part because the survival rate is so low. Fifteen years ago, not many had heard of it, but it is the fifth leading cause of death among women in the US. Fifty percent of those diagnosed die within five years.
Way teamed up with Cohen, Sandy’s nurse and close friend, to start the foundation. The inaugural gala, a gathering of 100 people served buffet-style food on paper plates, raised $12,000. This year, 300 guests are expected to attend the Black, White & Teal Gala and Auction honoring Lauren Hart, voice of the Philadelphia Flyers and herself a cancer survivor, to be held at The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr. Way and Cohen hope to bring in $150,000. “They’ve given a voice to this disease which is well needed,” says Hart. “It gives people in this area a place to go, a place for help.” In 2000, Hart was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer with a 50-50 rate of survival, and relied on the foundation for support throughout her battle. (Says Cohen, “Lauren Hart has been a supporter of ours for 15 years. Her journey kind of paralleled ours.”)
This September, the foundation’s Get Real With Teal program will dress more than 100 area towns in teal ribbons and window displays to raise awareness. The program is proven: In 2010, Way and Cohen received a call from a Havertown woman who was inspired to have a checkup after spotting the ribbons in her town. She was diagnosed with Stage I ovarian cancer but survived, due in part to early detection. “If you can just help one woman, it’s the most amazing feeling ever,” Way says.
This month also marks a milestone donation from the foundation to the Stand Up to Cancer Ovarian Cancer Dream Team, a groundbreaking new initiative to unite researchers nationwide. “It will be a gamechanger in the prevention and treatment of this disease,” Cohen says. Despite making strides nationally, at home Way and Cohen still focus on community support. “We have women walk in off the street who didn’t know where to turn,” says Cohen. “No one can do this alone.”