Meet Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire

To call Laurey Masterton an “overachiever” is akin to calling Lance Armstrong a “decent” bike rider. …On March 6, 2009, Laurey dipped her rear bicycle tire into the Pacific Ocean (San Diego, CA), and started a 58-day, 3100-mile trek that will culminate in the dipping of her front bicycle tire into the Atlantic Ocean (St. Augustine, FL) on or about April 30th. … The purpose of her bike trip is to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. …

To call Laurey Masterton an “overachiever” is akin to calling Lance Armstrong a “decent” bike rider.   A few of Laurey’s amazing talents and achievements (past & present) include the following:

Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor, Bikes Across America to Raise Awareness About the Early Warning Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer (Photo Source: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance)

Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor, Bikes Across America to Raise Awareness About the Early Warning Signs & Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer (Photo Source: Ovarian Cancer National Alliance)

  • Graduate from the University of New Hampshire;
  • Outward Bound Instructor who co-created and instructed the first Outward Bound courses for cancer survivors at The North Carolina Outward Bound School;
  • Intern for Nora Pouillion, the creator of the first 100 percent certified organic restaurant in the U.S.;
  • Founder of Laurey’s Catering & Gourmet to Go, a very successful catering business and shop for “gourmet comfort food;”
  • Author of Elsie’s Biscuits:Simple Stories of Me, My Mother, and Food, a “culinary memoir-with recipesin which she tells about growing up in the golden light of a small inn, losing her parents as a child, and then finding her way back to them through food and stories;
  • In 1999, Laurey was awarded the Small Business Leader of the Year for both Asheville, North Carolina and the state of North Carolina;
  • In 2001, Laurey was the recipient of  The Athena Award, which promotes women’s leadership and honors outstanding leaders;
  • Board Chair of  the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce;
  • Board Member of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project;
  • Participant in local farm-to-table initiatives, with a particular interest in helping children experience gardening, cooking and the eating of “real food;”
  • Glassblowing student, who collects sea urchins, antique chafing dishes, and old Clementine boxes;
  • Italian speaking leader of guided culinary tours to the Tuscany region of Italy and the Provence region of France;
  • Active long-distance bike rider and beekeeper;
  • Resident of Asheville, North Carolina, where she lives with her partner Chris and her dog Tye;
  • Follower of the motto “don’t postpone joy;” and
  • 20-year survivor of ovarian cancer, one of the deadliest cancers affecting women today.

Yup, I “buried the lead” as they say in journalism.  Laurey is a 20-year ovarian cancer survivor who fully recognizes and appreciates her good fortune.  As you probably guessed by now, the appreciation of good fortune is simply not enough for Laurey.   On March 6, 2009, Laurey dipped her rear bicycle tire into the Pacific Ocean (San Diego, CA), and started a 58-day, 3100-mile trek that will culminate in the dipping of her front bicycle tire into the Atlantic Ocean (St. Augustine, FL) on or about April 30th. The purpose of her bike trip is to raise awareness about the warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and the dire need for early detection.  In an interview with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA), Laurey said, “Being a 20-year ovarian cancer survivor is a special victory because sadly most of its victims don’t reach this milestone. I’m one of the lucky ones because I was able to feel symptoms early on and was diagnosed in Stage I. I was in touch with my body, I knew something was wrong, I was persistent with the doctors and it saved my life. Early detection and awareness of ovarian cancer is the message that I want my bike ride to convey.”

Historically ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer” because symptoms were not thought to develop until the chance of cure was poor. However, recent studies have shown this term is untrue and that the following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population. These symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

As in Laurey’s case, women with ovarian cancer report that symptoms are persistent and represent a change from normal for their bodies. The frequency and/or number of such symptoms are key factors in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Several studies show that early stage ovarian cancer can produce these symptoms. Women who have these symptoms daily for more than a few weeks should see their doctor, preferably a gynecologist. Prompt medical evaluation can lead to detection at the earliest possible stage of the disease which is associated with an improved prognosis.  Additional symptoms can include fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation and menstrual irregularities.

The ovarian cancer facts and figures published by the American Cancer Society in 2008 note the following:

  • Ovarian cancer can afflict adolescent, young adult, and mature women, although the risk of disease increases with age and peaks in the late 70s. Pregnancy and the long-term use of oral contraceptives reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer.
  • There is no reliable screening test for the detection of early stage ovarian cancer. Pelvic examination only occasionally detects ovarian cancer, generally when the disease is advanced.  However, the combination of a thorough pelvic exam, transvaginal ultrasound, and a blood test for the tumor marker CA125 can be offered to women who are at high risk of ovarian cancer and to women who have persistent, unexplained symptoms like those listed above.
  • If diagnosed at the localized stage, the 5-year ovarian cancer survival rate is 92%; however, only about 19% of all cases are detected at this stage, usually fortuitously during another medical procedure.
  • Ovarian cancer incidence rates are highest in Western industrialized countries.
  • Ovarian cancer accounts for about 3% of all cancers among women and ranks #2 among gynecologic cancers.
  • An estimated 21,650 new ovarian cancer cases were diagnosed in the U.S.
  • An estimated 15,520 ovarian cancer deaths occurred.
  • Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.

Prior to starting her trip, Laurey Masterton raised a portion of her $50,000 goal amount that will be donated to (i) OCNA, in support of its work on research, education, and awareness essential to the fight against ovarian cancer, and (ii) the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), an organization that promotes and enhances the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry. In turn, the OCNA and WCR are partnering with Laurey in her efforts to raise ovarian cancer awareness.  “Laurey is an inspiration to women everywhere to never give up and always to have hope no matter how big the obstacle,” says Karen Orloff Kaplan, CEO of OCNA. “We are delighted to support Laurey throughout her bike ride and help her reach her goals in bringing more attention to ovarian cancer.”

Laurey is journaling online in “real time” about various aspects of her ongoing bike trip at www.laureybikes.blogspot.com. On Saturday, March 14th, Laurey stopped at Apache Junction, Arizona to chat with several ovarian cancer survivors. In one of Laurey’s most touching journal entries to date, entitled A morning to chat, Laurey writes:

mastertonphoenixstop1

(Photo Source: Laurey Bikes at http://www.laureybikes.blogspot.com)

*     *     *

These sweet lovelies came to see me off this morning. FIRST thing! Ovarian cancer survivors (the woman on my left is a 38 year survivor!) and supporters, they arrived, armed with teal feather boas and a video camera and good questions. The sun rose over those fragrant eucalyptus trees and we talked about riding and surviving and persisting in the face of chemotherapy or miles and miles of uphill, bumpy roads.

Before I left Asheville I had a Reiki session with a friend and told her that I was not sure I was doing the right thing by leaving my business and my home and my friends and my life to go gallivanting around on my red Trek. She said I would find signs to tell me I WAS doing the right thing. She said, “Your spirit guides will tell you. They especially like to show themselves in the form of pennies and feathers.”

Ha!

Here they are.

*     *     *


I encourage everyone to check out Laurey’s Google Map below, which sets forth her anticipated travel route and stops.  As of this writing, Laurey was leaving Lordsburg, New Mexico, so please visit Laurey’s blog to learn how you can support her during her cross-country bike ride.

If I were a betting man, I would say that there is no doubt that Laurey will complete her cross country trek, while educating thousands of women about the warning signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, and the need for early detection. Throughout her entire life, Laurey did not allow difficult life circumstances and past achievements to define her. Nothing has changed. She always moves forward, living by the motto “don’t postpone joy.”  Laurey not only represents a strong role model for ovarian cancer survivors, she is an inspiring and passionate role model for anyone with a heartbeat.

Babe Ruth, the legendary baseball player, once said, “It’s hard to beat a person who refuses to give up.”  A word to the wise:  Never bet against Laurey because the word “quit” is not in her vocabulary!

In the video below, TV Personality and Chef Sara Moulton conducts an intimate interview with Laurey Masterton regarding her cross country bike ride to raise awareness about the early warnings signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

TV Personality & Chef Sara Moulton Interviews Laurey Masterton

About the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) is the nation’s vision and voice for ovarian cancer issues. The OCNA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, leads the national initiative to conquer ovarian cancer by uniting individuals and local, state and national organizations in a consolidated movement to advance ovarian cancer research, improve health care practice and find an effective screening test and a cure for the disease. To learn more about the OCNA, visit its website at www.ovariancancer.org.

About the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs

The mission of  Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is to promote and enhance the education, advancement and connection of women in the culinary industry. Formed in 1993 by eight of the nation’s top women chefs and restaurateurs, WCR has grown to a membership of over 2,000 members, offering a variety of networking, professional and support services. To learn about WCR, visit its website at www.womenchefs.org.
____________________________________

Primary Source20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor Celebrates Golden Birthday – Chef Laurey Masterton Bikes 3,098 Miles Across US to Raise Awareness About Ovarian Cancer, Press Release, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, March 4, 2009.  Libby’s H*O*P*E*™ would like to extend a special thank you to Laurey Masterton and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance for allowing us to feature Laurey’s story along with her photographs and google map.

4 thoughts on “Meet Laurey Masterton, 20-Year Ovarian Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire

  1. Pingback: Libby’s H O P E | Life Cycle

  2. Greetings,
    I hope this letter finds you in the best of health and happiness.
    My name is Jessica Jojo. I am an Indian studying in the State of Qatar. I am studying in the International School of London – IB program, year 11
    In year 11 we need to submit a personal project. The topic that I have decided to work on is Ovarian Cancer. I am very serious about this project. You may be wondering why I chose such a heavy topic. Well it’s because firstly I want to become a doctor specialized in Obstetrics and gynecology. And secondly my sister and me, we both suffer from menstruation problems. We are in two extremes of the same scale. We consulted many doctors and they said it’s nothing to be worried about but I have this nagging thought at the back of my head telling me not to push it off as a silly thought so from then onwards I started reading and researching a lot. I came across many possibilities and after reading a lot I became interested in ovarian cancer from last year onwards.
    I want to make a website on Ovarian Cancer. I want the website to be something that would give hope to women around the world who are suffering from OC that they can get through it no matter what and to have faith. I would like my website to be inspiring. And I want women who are survivors of Ovarian Cancer to communicate through the website to many other women in the world about their experience and the survivors should be like an inspiration to many women out there, as role models!
    One in 67 women suffers from it and it’s the eight most common cancer in women. I read a lot of articles about women sharing their experiences of how dreadful it is and what all they had to go through. Many people as young as 18 years were suffering from it. What I noticed is that these women who are sharing their experiences sound devastated. They have this feeling that for sure they are going to die.
    But why aren’t they looking at the lighter side of the issue? There are many women who come through this and are leading happy and blissful lives. I read this story on the internet that there was this girl who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 18 and the doctors told her that she was going to do die no matter what but 10 years from then, now she is leading a perfect life and she is pregnant something the doctor said would never happen!
    Through my website I want to raise awareness about OC as well as to spread the message to women across the world that there is hope and no matter what they are going to get through it. In my website I would like to include a small movie on different survivors of OC sharing their positive experience as well as a blog through which women can communicate. This project may sound as a big task but I really want to accomplish it!
    IF you are absolutely comfortable with sharing you experience then I hope that you would be able to help me!?
    If so please reply. You can contact me at jes_jojo@yahoo.com. Thank You So Much.

    Like

    • Dear Jessica,

      Thank you so much for writing to Libby’s H*O*P*E*. Needless to say, we are thrilled to hear that an intelligent young woman such as yourself is willing and able to take on this challenging project. Your proposed ovarian cancer school project sounds excellent. Obviously, you are mature beyond your years to choose a difficult and inspirational topic like ovarian cancer. That choice alone speaks very highly of you.

      We would be both proud and honored to assist you as part of your project. In this regard, I would like to expand upon the critical concepts set forth in your email.

      First, as you probably know, ovarian cancer is the most lethal of all gynecologic cancers. If you calculated a ratio of number of deaths to diagnosed cases, ovarian cancer would surpass breast cancer. In the U.S., the ovarian awareness color is teal, while breast cancer is pink. We see far too many pink ribbons and not enough teal ribbons.

      Second, your project encompasses a very important concept that “knowledge is power” in the fight against ovarian cancer. Once a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she is, by U.S. definition, a survivor. Like you, we believe these women can not only survive but thrive! Despite our best efforts, the statistics still remain grim, but with greater awareness comes more money for research, and ultimately, a cure.

      You are absolutely correct that there are many amazing and inspirational ovarian cancer “thrivers.” The problem is that the media of today focuses on bad stories rather than good ones. You can help change that situation with your proposed project.

      Ovarian cancer does not discriminate. Since our website began, we have spoken to and written about inspirational women with ovarian cancer as young as six years old and as old as 85. Although 50% of women with ovarian cancer are 63 years old or older, there is a growing awareness that the remaining 50% of women affected by the disease are younger than 65. In fact, we have communicated with and met many women from ages 16 through 40 who are ovarian cancer survivors.

      It is wonderful that someone of your young age is willing to sacrifice her time and energy for such a worthy cause that is in desperate need for more recognition. We know that you will ultimately receive back much more than you give, especially after getting to know some of these fantastic women.

      Finally, you raise an issue that many young women write to us about — endometriosis. Most women do not realize that endometriosis has been associated with future ovarian cancer. Although such association is somewhat rare, the pain associated with endometriosis can represent an early warning sign to women in their younger years that they must be vigilant in taking care of their bodies through annual gynecologic checkups.

      As for your long term goal to become an OB/GYN doctor, we applaud you! We believe that you will find, in the end, that such goal is much more than a career — it’s a special calling to help women, which is carried out by compassionate men and women. The accomplishment of your goal will represent not only a job well done, but a life well lived.

      We are curious as to how you learned about Libby’s H*O*P*E*. As we hope to educate the next generation of young woman about ovarian cancer, we would be very interested in your thoughts and suggestions.

      At your convenience, please let us know how we can help you. We will do our very best to honor your request. In the interim, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us using the information below.

      Best regard,

      Paul Cacciatore
      Founder, Libby’s H*O*P*E*

      Like

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