SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The seventh annual T.E.A.L. Walk/Run in Savannah is taking place virtually in 2020.
It’s hosted by the New York City-based Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation, which held its first walk in Brooklyn in 2009.
The walk has taken place in several cities across the country since its inception, including Savannah.
T.E.A.L. volunteers invite people to participate by walking or running two miles from wherever they are, whether from their homes or around their neighborhood.
The annual event, held during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, is taking place virtually in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this, organizers hope the new format won’t deter people from taking part and spreading the word about ovarian cancer.
“Families and survivors come together and can share this experience at least once a year and know that they’re not alone,” T.E.A.L. CEO and co-founder, Pamela Esposito-Amery, told WSAV NOW.
She and her late sister, Louisa M. McGregor, started the foundation after McGregor was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The co-founder succumbed to the disease after a four-year battle in March of 2011.
“It’s so important for them to come together for that day to walk virtually,” Esposito-Amery said.
“They could be on their treadmill, they could walk in a park, whatever makes sense to them, and take pictures and really feel that connection on social media that we’re all in it together.”
Ovarian Cancer: What to know
Between 22,000 to 23,000 cases of ovarian cancer are reported in the United States each year, according to Memorial Health gynecological oncologist Dr. James Burke.
“Unfortunately, about 14,000 to 15,000 of those women will die of their disease, and the reason is because it is found at an advanced stage when the woman presents,” Burke said.
He adds that there currently is no screening process for ovarian cancer.
“It tends to have an indolent progression from the time that it starts until it causes major symptoms that usually direct women to go and see a physician,” Burke said.
Symptoms may include discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, pain with urination or heavier-than-normal bleeding during menstruation.
“Women who don’t have multiple pregnancies and women that have relatives who have breast or ovarian cancer are at increased risk because they could potentially have inherited a gene or a couple of genes that we now know about that could increase the risk for ovarian cancer,” Burke said. “Those are the BRCA genes.”
Ovarian cancer is also the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the U.S., and its rates of occurrence are highest in women between 55 to 64 years old, according to the National Women’s Health Network.
Walking for awareness
Vanessa Tindal, a Savannah resident and New York City native, says she got involved with T.E.A.L. after her sister, Simone Courtlandt, participated in Brooklyn.
Courtlandt was battling ovarian cancer, and Tindal says she wanted to do everything she could to support her every step of her journey.
Tindal adds that Courtlandt didn’t have symptoms before getting diagnosed in November of 2012.
“We still need to talk about this, we can’t let the pandemic stop us from spreading the word. We need to make sure that we stay informed, and the T.E.A.L. organization is here to help us, and to help women and men stay informed.”
— Vanessa Tindal, T.E.A.L. volunteer who lost sister Simone Courtlandt to ovarian cancer
“The first year that I walked and in many of the previous walks, Simone was there with us, and last year was our first walk without her,” Tindal told WSAV NOW. Courtlandt lost her battle with the disease two years ago.
For last year’s walk, Tindal got at least 100 people to join Team Simone during the T.E.A.L. Walk at Lake Mayer.
“This is all because of my sister,” she said.
“I want to be there for someone else like I was there for my sister, and I want people to understand that this is not something that they have to battle by themselves,” Tindal said.
She says people are welcome to join her smaller team, which still plans to meet for the walk at Lake Mayer.
Anyone interested in registering to participate in Saturday’s virtual T.E.A.L. Walk/Run can do so at tealwalk.org/savannah. The virtual event begins at 10 a.m. and lasts throughout the day.