Cancer

A group of HOPE'S Wing volunteers turned the town teal on Sunday.

Had it not been for the birth of her son, Leighton, three months ago, Melissa Zweigle isn't sure doctors would have discovered her cancer.

The 20-year-old gave birth on May 16. Two weeks later, she had abdominal pains so bad, she was curled on the floor in a ball.

Worried it was a complication from her delivery, she went to the doctor.

What they found, she said, was a tumor that turned out to be a rare form of ovarian cancer.

Now Melissa is helping spread the word that women shouldn't ignore what could be serious symptoms.

"I feel like everybody should know about it," she said. "Go to the doctor. It's better to be safe than sorry."

On Sunday, Melissa joined about a dozen other volunteers for HOPE'S Wing to help turn Statesville teal in support of Ovarian Cancer Awareness month.

The project has been headed up by Kim Eroh, who founded HOPE'S Wing to help cancer patients after her own battle with ovarian cancer.

"The most important thing to me is that people realize how deadly this disease can be," she said. "We get mammograms, prostate cancer screening ... there's no screening for ovarian cancer."

More than 85 people and businesses sponsored ribbons throughout town, and the mayor and city council gave their stamp of approval. The community response, she said, has been affirming of the mission to spread the word about ovarian cancer.

Many people, Eroh said, are originally misdiagnosed. It took an ultrasound to determine that she had cancer. And many mistakenly believe that a pap smear can detect ovarian cancer.

Barbara Mason Van, a board member for HOPE'S Wing, was one of the people tying teal ribbons on Sunday, and said raising awareness about this disease is so important because many of the symptoms -- abdominal bloating, heart burn, urinary problems -- can be attributed to other causes.

"It's all about trying to get early detection and save lives," she said. "It's just getting education out there."

INFO BOX: HOPE'S Wing provides support services and outreach programs to local cancer patients, their caregivers and families. To learn more or donate, visit hopeswing.org.

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