Sunset Park women walk for ovarian cancer cure

Sunset Park resident Kim Henry tragically lost her sister Maureen to cancer eight years ago. “My sister passed away on Jan 28, 2006 of ovarian cancer. She was 42. She was a mom, sister and daughter to a very large family,” Henry wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

But Maureen Henry has not been forgotten, not by her family and friends, and certainly not by the hundreds of people who participate each year in the Maureen Henry Walk of Hope, an event held in Sunset Park to honor her memory. The park is located between 41st and 44th streets and runs from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue. The park shares its name with the community in which it is located.

Organized by Kim Henry, the walk raises money for cancer charities. The event also raises public awareness about the dreaded disease of ovarian cancer, which strikes tens of thousands of women in the US each year.  “I started this walk in my sister’s memory in 2010. The first year we had about 50 people. However, at last year’s walk we have over 250 people come out to show support,” Henry told the Eagle.

“In the past four years, we have raised money and have donated 100 percent all the proceeds to a many different cancer organizations. This year all the donations will go to Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. We have a doctor from Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center coming to be a guest speaker regarding treatments options and services,” Henry said.   

Henry is busy making plans for the Fifth Annual Maureen Henry Walk of Hope, set to take place in Sunset Park on Sept. 13.

For Henry’s next strategy session, she’s taking things outside. The planning session is doubling as a “pizza picnic” in Sunset Park on Friday July 18, at 5:30 p.m. "A group of us will be spreading blankets by the 41st Street & Sixth Avenue flag circle in the park to hold a meeting to plan the Fifth Annual ‘Maureen Henry Walk of Hope’ planned for September 13,” Henry said.

The unusual venue for a planning meeting, a pizza picnic in the park, was selected to show that the fight against ovarian cancer has to be different, because as a cancer it is different, according to Henry.

Currently, women and their doctors must rely on symptoms that most people have from time to time.  The symptoms include: bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating, feeling full too quickly or urinary urgency. Other symptoms can be upset stomach, back pain, pain during sex, constipation, menstrual changes or unexplained changes in bowel habits. The symptoms are too ambiguous to clearly point to ovarian cancer, Henry said.

"Our hope is that we will shine a light on ovarian cancer and be a voice that helps lead to an accurate test that will save lives," Henry said.

Four out of five women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer only after it has spread outside the ovaries. Approximately 21,980 women in the US are diagnosed each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

"My sister Maureen who was a mother, a daughter, sister, aunt and a friend to so many was lost to ovarian cancer in 2006. It has forever changed our lives. In her absence, we were left with overwhelming grief and hurt. All I could focus on was what could I do to keep her close now that she is gone? How can I honor her life and memory with a positive message that is meaningful and makes a difference?" Henry said.

From her grief, Henry developed the Walk of Hope. “It gave me a voice to tell people how important my sister was to our family. I refused to let my sister's fight with cancer go unnoticed. She is not a statistic or a number added to the already too many that lose this battle every day,” Henry said.

For more information on the Maureen Henry Walk of Hope call 718-813-4971.