Take a walk with others to help make Kathleen Ward’s birthday wish come true.
Ward, a Victoria resident, is asking people to make a $60 donation in support of the Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope, which takes place Sept. 10 at Royal Roads University. The amount of the donation is significant because in addition to marking her age, it underlines a selfless act of courage, inspiration and determination that’s difficult to fathom.
Ward, an avid walker and self-described “granola eating, yoga doing, hiking and mountain biking woman,” was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2015.
“Cancer was not a thing that was going to happen to me,” she explained in a message she is sharing to help others dealing with the disease. “I was completely blown away.” She underwent a hysterectomy and 18 rounds of chemotherapy and, because she firmly believes being active in the outdoors boosts mental health, went for a walk every day, no matter how poorly she felt.
After doctors told her in early 2016 that her cancer was in remission, Ward and her husband attacked her bucket list with a steely determination. They bought a RV and canoed the Yukon River and the Chilkoot Trail, a 53 kilometre trek through the Coast Mountains between Dyea, Alaska, and Bennett, B.C. Along the hike the Wards met a group of medical students who were studying immunology and ovarian cancer.
An ironic twist on the trail had the students telling Ward they had never met anyone with ovarian cancer, and Ward replying that she had never met anyone studying the disease. “I told those researchers to get back to university as soon as possible because they might just save my life one day,” Ward recalled.
The Wards travelled to the Okanagan Valley last winter for their next adventure, 1,000 kilometres of cross-country skiing. “The endorphins from the fresh air and exercising with friends made me feel much better,” Ward noted. “I started to hope that the cancer had been nothing more than a speed bump in my life.”
Unfortunately, that mole hill turned into a mountain in March when Ward’s doctors told her the cancer had metastasized to her lungs and liver. “It just totally floored me,” she admitted.
It was around that time that Ward first heard about Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope and decided to get involved. “When you’ve got lemons, you make lemonade,” she said in a classic case of understatement. “The walk is a perfect match for my love of walking outdoors and my strong belief in the benefits of walking to help you feel better through cancer. So I thought I would set myself a challenge and try to help other people.”
With her 60th birthday on the horizon, Ward formed a Walk of Hope Team aptly named Kathleen’s $60 for 60 and set a goal of raising $10,000. It was difficult at first putting her story out there, she admitted, but decided it was an opportunity to create something positive from her diagnosis.
“I finally got the courage, found the ‘ladyballs,’” she said and sent an email to family, friends and colleagues explaining what she was doing.
The response has been so amazing that Ward has already exceeded her original goal. “That email is still making the rounds and I can’t believe how generous people have been, she noted. “I am truly grateful to those people who’ve donated and the many planning to join me on walk day.”
In Canada, 2,800 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, with 56 per cent of those not surviving past the five-year mark. The Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope directs all fundraising towards overcoming the disease.
Visit ovariancancerwalkofhope.ca to register or donate and help make Ward’s 60th birthday a memorable one.