In 2012, Nicole Cundiff and her husband, Billy, founded Colleen’s Dream Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for ovarian cancer research and raising awareness about the disease.
For Nicole and her three sisters, Danielle, Michelle and Billie, the Scottsdale-based foundation’s mission is intensely personal: Their mother, Colleen Drury, died in 2013 of ovarian cancer after being diagnosed in 2007.
Read what Nicole has to say about her work with Colleen’s Dream Foundation and why cancer research and education is vitally important.
Q: How are you helping women diagnosed with ovarian cancer?
A: We help women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in multiple ways. Not only do we send care packages to women, but we also take pride in introducing them to other women of similar ages and circumstances to reinforce their support systems. We also develop relationships with women who are interested in telling their stories and provide them opportunities to speak at our events. We’re putting the finishing touches on an online platform for outreach.
Q: Tell me about some of the research you’ve been able to fund.
A: We have been fortunate enough to fund research all over the country. From MD Anderson to Memorial Sloan Kettering to Harvard, we have granted research funding to over 20 institutions totaling more than $1 million. Our most exciting grant to date was a $450,000 research grant to TGen for a clinical trial that will be named after my mom, Colleen. This clinical trial will focus on a biomarker that typically affects young women who are diagnosed with a very aggressive form of the disease.
Q: How does it feel to know you’re making a difference?
A: Honestly, the gift of keeping our mom’s memory alive and her spirit close, while pushing the envelope for cutting-edge ovarian cancer research is a true blessing. Our mom was such an amazing person, and we’re proud to be able to tell her story, raise awareness and hopefully increase survival rates for women affected by the disease. Making sure her death was not in vain by helping other women is an honor.
Q: What has been the most memorable moment for you since you started Colleen’s Dream?
A: Being able to fund TGen’s clinical trial was an incredible moment. TGen is doing such amazing work and having opportunities to be involved in research at this level is so exciting. We have so much hope for future women diagnosed with ovarian cancer because of ground-breaking research like that of TGen’s clinical trial.
Q: What do you want people to know about Colleen’s Dream?
A: I want people to know that we are a small but mighty organization. We try to keep our overhead low so that we can focus on research and education. Part of our educational outreach is making sure all people know their family histories of cancer so they can work with a genetic counselor to understand their risk factors. I also want women to be aware of the signs and symptoms - bloating, fatigue, frequency in urination, back/pelvic pain and feeling full quickly. If a woman has these symptoms for more than 2 weeks or 12 times in a month, she should consult her gynecologist. Lastly, everyone can learn more about ovarian cancer or get involved with our foundation by visiting our website, colleensdream.org.
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