Tell every amazing lady about ovarian cancer.
The message became a mission for Park Slope resident Pamela Esposito-Amery after her sister, Louisa McGregor, died in 2011, following a four-year battle with the disease that went undetected at first.
“Louisa had signs and symptoms for a very long time, and visited various doctors, but was not diagnosed until she was at a late stage because there is no screening test for ovarian cancer,” says Esposito-Amery.
When McGregor was released from the hospital, the sisters searched for a sponsored walk, but were surprised to learn none existed for ovarian cancer. They decided to create their own — and then some. They formed the Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer, Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation to promote awareness and education of the signs, symptoms and risk factors, and offer support to survivors while raising funds for research to find a cure.
“We set out to make a lot of noise in Brooklyn,” says Esposito-Amery.
Eight years later, TEAL has raised money for research nationwide, funded research at some of the country’s most prestigious hospitals and institutions, and partnered with the New York Mets for the annual Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day at Citi Field. The TEAL Walk and Run Program has expanded across the country, the organization enjoys a global presence, and board members, survivors, staff and loyal supporters were invited to open the NASDAQ Stock Market for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September.
The successes are largely due to the Woman of Distinction, says board treasurer Gina Pappalardo-DeFillippo.
“Pamela’s passion to bring education and awareness of this deadly disease is what drives her every day,” she says. “I know Louisa would be proud of how far she has taken — and will take — TEAL.”
Esposito-Amery, who gave up a successful career to work full time at the organization, is excited about the future.
“Great research is coming out and exciting things happening,” she says. “But for now recognizing signs and symptoms is vital.”
There is no definitive screening test for ovarian cancer and no official diagnosis until surgery. A pap smear does not test for the disease, but a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a pelvic-rectal exam can help yield red flags. Symptoms are vague and subtle, including back pain, fatigue, indigestion, and bloating, making a visit to the doctor imperative if unusual changes last for more than two weeks, says Esposito-Amery.
“Listen to your body,” she says. “Be persistent and if you are not happy with a doctor, get a second opinion.”
Grassroots help is available at the new community center Esposito-Amery and her team opened last year to reach more people through workshops and other outreach.
“Now anyone can walk through our doors and get support,” she says.
Their challenging stories of pain and suffering are familiar to the honoree.
“I’ve developed a thick skin and can relate to family members on their level because I went through it with Louisa,” she says.
Neighborhood: Park Slope.
Occupation: Chief Executive Officer and co-founder.
Company: Tell Every Amazing Lady About Ovarian Cancer, Louisa M. McGregor Ovarian Cancer Foundation.
Claim To Fame: “Raising awareness about ovarian cancer.”
Favorite Brooklyn Place: Prospect Park.
Woman I Admire: “Comedian Ellen DeGeneres for reminding us to be kind to one another, and to dance and laugh every day.”
Motto: “If you’re not excited about it, it’s not the right path.”