Julie W. Schaffner was the Chief Operating Officer at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, a 638-bed hospital located in Park Ridge, Illinois, when she succumbed to ovarian cancer on December 31, 2010. In addition to being nationally recognized as a health care leader, she also was a loving wife and mother, a devoted daughter and sister, and a cherished neighbor and friend. She was two months shy of her 57th birthday when she lost her battle to the disease.
Although hers was a hard-fought battle, it wasn’t a very long one — she was diagnosed with advanced stage III ovarian cancer in June, 2009. She spent the final 18 months of her life fighting the disease in every possible way — secondary and tertiary medical opinions, a number of different chemotherapy treatments and drugs, participation in a clinical trial, prayer, and a number of homeopathic remedies. In the end, none were successful.
A lifelong nurse and caregiver, Julie understood all of the issues surrounding ovarian cancer — it is a slow-growing cancer, it is very difficult to detect at an early stage and that the mortality rate from late detection (Stage II or IV) was very high. She knew that barring a miracle, the advanced state of her cancer would likely be too much for her body to overcome. There simply wasn’t much time.
That’s when she decided that even though it was too late for her, other women might benefit from having greater knowledge about the symptoms and causes of ovarian cancer. During one of her regular chemotherapy sessions at the hospital’s oncology department, she took time out from her work day (she continued to run Lutheran General Hospital from her bedside on chemotherapy days) to begin to craft the framework for an organization she hoped would play a key role in helping women become more knowledgeable about the risk factors and early warning signs of ovarian cancer and that would help fund research that might help discover a cure.
Julie’s energy and fighting spirit live on today through the Julie W. Schaffner Ovarian Cancer Fund — an organization that consists of caring people who believe, as Julie did, that a winning battle can be fought against ovarian cancer with increased knowledge, better awareness and advancements in science.
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