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While Marie Wood felt like she had just been to war, still, she was happy. After a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, surgery and six months of chemotherapy, the Greensboro resident, mother of four and successful interior designer learned her cancer was in remission.

Marie Wood, founder of She ROCKS the TRIAD, spoke at the 32nd Annual Lineberger Club Breakfast and Basketball game.

Life was good. She had just wrapped up the holidays with her family at the end of 2017 when the call came in. Her cancer had returned.

“What I came to understand is, this cancer is a beast,” said Wood, speaking to nearly 200 people at the 32nd Annual Lineberger Club Breakfast and Basketball Game, an event held at the Carolina Club as a show of appreciation for supporters who help make UNC Lineberger’s research possible.

Wood shared the story of her motivation to launch the Triad chapter of She ROCKS Inc., a Wilmington-based nonprofit that has raised more than $600,000 for ovarian cancer research at UNC Lineberger.

UNC Lineberger Director Shelton Earp, MD.

“We so appreciate what you do,” said UNC Lineberger Director Shelton Earp, MD, who described the strides made in cancer prevention, basic science research and treatment at UNC Lineberger. He also recognized the center’s many supporters, including Pearl Schechter, who has attended all 32 Lineberger Club events. With her late husband, Sol Schechter, she helped launch a grant program that supports early-stage, novel research in order to bridge to larger grants.

UNC Lineberger supporter Pearl Schechter.

“On behalf of our division, our moms, our sisters, our friends, and our daughters, I want to thank you for what you’re doing,” said UNC Lineberger’s Paola Gehrig, MD, professor and director of gynecologic oncology in the UNC School of Medicine. Important advances have been made in research, treatment, and care delivery, for ovarian cancer, the most lethal gynecologic disease in the United States, she said.

UNC Lineberger’s Paola Gehrig, MD, professor and director of gynecologic oncology.

“We have more treatment options, and we have seen more improvements in the last five years, than we’ve seen in the previous 20,” Gehrig said. “It’s really incredible, and research has made that happen.”

While treatment can cause ovarian cancer to become like a chronic disease for some, that is not the case for everyone. Just 47 percent of women diagnosed with the disease in the United States survive five years, according to the National Cancer Institute. Wood’s cancer went into remission after four months of treatment in 2018, but it has relapsed again, and she is back in active treatment.

Wood has maintained a good perspective on her own cancer, but she said speaking with young women who had ovarian cancer that did not respond to treatment motivated her to seek change.

“After hearing about these cases, and these young women – I think that’s when I snapped …” Wood said.

Wood also wanted to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. She recalls being a healthy, active 51-year-old when she received the unexpected diagnosis in 2017.

“I knew all about cervical cancer, and breast cancer, and colon cancer and the signs and symptoms of those, but why not ovarian cancer?” she said.

Her search for an organization that could help her raise awareness and support for ovarian cancer research led her to She ROCKS Inc. Wood knew quickly that she wanted to be part of the group and its mission. She helped form a steering committee to launch the Triad chapter, and at the group’s inaugural event, they raised $76,000.

“We created a spaceship to put a man on the moon and get him back home. We have sent a satellite to Saturn that sent back amazing photos of the moons that surround Saturn. I can’t begin to fully understand everything we have accomplished in space discovery…,” Wood said. “I believe man is smart enough to change the trajectory of cancer also. We already have made a huge difference in many types of cancer, but folks, there is a long way to go.”

Both Wood and Gehrig recognized the legacy of Beth Quinn, the late founder of She ROCKS. She died from ovarian cancer last year. Wood said Quinn believed with all of her heart that “someone will find a cure.”

“I challenge each of us to make a difference by using our energy, our voices and our resources to give back to this learning institute, and bring about changes, and in many cases, a cure for cancer,” Wood said.