Nicole Fredrickson was at the Ovarian Cancer Walk of Hope in Courtenay with her mother in 2005 when something happened that would influence her life.
“The speaker made a comment about how we should get a walk going in Victoria,” the longtime Colwood resident recalls. “My mom just looked over at me and smiled. I knew she wanted me to do it.”
Two months later her mother lost her battle with ovarian cancer, and Fredrickson felt compelled to fulfill that dying wish. She and brother Phil Venoit organized the inaugural walk that same year and Fredrickson has co-chaired it, assisted by her family, every year since.
Venoit, who lives in Metchosin, credits his sister for keeping the walk going. “It’s (her) drive, passion and compassion to do something that would commemorate our mother,” he says.
The siblings recognized the need to raise awareness after their mother’s diagnosis came too late for effective treatment, a common theme with ovarian cancer, the symptoms of which are often mis-associated with stomach troubles or pre-menstrual syndrome.
“We recognized there was very little information, very little research going on,” Venoit says. “It didn’t have the same exposure as prostate or breast cancer.”
Local business E.H. Emery Electric was quick to offer support for the walk and has been a major sponsor every year, says Venoit, adding they offer a “tremendous amount of support,” bringing their staff to the event, helping to set up and more.
“(Derek and Bonnie Emery) really ensure the event is successful in Victoria,” he says.
And the support is sincerely heartfelt. Derek has lost both his mother and sister to cancer, a loss that echoes through the walk’s participants.
Everyone seems to walk either in support of others, in memory of a loved one who lost the fight or while going through treatment themselves.
Helen Taylor of View Royal is walking again this year for friend Sue Sorbie, a North Islander who was a staunch supporter of the Victoria event from day one.
“We always walked for Sue every year,” Taylor says. Sorbie endured course after course of treatments until she passed away a couple of years ago.
“She always came out. Even the last year, when she couldn’t walk because she couldn’t come down to (Colwood), we went up to her (in Courtenay) and Sue sat in the car and watched us all walk,” Taylor says. “Sue was such a remarkable lady. She inspired so many people.”
Driven to do something to remember her friend, Taylor gathered all the official T-shirts of the previous eight walks, and sewed them into a quilt with the help of friends Myrna Laing and Jennifer Watson.
“I just wanted to do something with the T-shirts,” Taylor says. “I did it in memory of Sue.”
She gave the quilt to Fredrickson, who was moved by the gesture and immediately asked to use it as the symbol for the yearly walk.
The walk honours friends and loved ones who’ve passed, but it’s also important for bringing the disease into the public eye, says Fredrickson.
With no early detection or effective screening, she says, it’s vital to educate people about what to watch for and encourage them to take symptoms seriously.
The walk happens Sunday (Sept. 7) at Royal Roads University. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the walk is at 10. For more information, visit ovariancancerwalkofhope.ca.