When Belvina Alvarado, 47, found out last year that she had stage four ovarian cancer, she was in such shock she couldn’t speak for two days, but with treatment and the support of her family, Alvarado was happy to write “cancer survivor” under the number she wore for the 10th annual Kickin’ Cancer 5K Walk/Run on Sunday on San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood.
"It was the most horrible, horrible, horrible experience, but I always thought I would survive this," Alvarado said. "I think the first thing you have to have in mind is hope, and always think you're going to pass through this and survive."
Alvarado’s family was also at the event to support both her and her sister, Soledad Garcia, 49, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer. When Garcia lifted up her stocking cap to reveal her completely bald head and made a frowny face, Alvarado immediately gave her a big hug.
“We live together and we give each other support while we’re going through this,” Alvarado said. “I feel so happy to have all these people surrounding me.”
The event was founded 10 years ago to celebrate the life of Brentwood resident Lynne Cohen, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer in 1998 at the age of 53. Her three daughters created the Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research to support research combating ovarian cancer through prevention and early detection.
“I think we filled a void, because there wasn’t really anything out there like this for ovarian cancer,” said Amy Cohen Epstein, foundation co-founder. “We’ve raised over $250,000 this year, and over the 10 years we’ve raised more than $10 million with nearly every dime going to the early detection of ovarian cancer.”
Epstein and her sisters wanted to create an event that their mother would have loved—a family-friendly outdoor event that would get people active and physical, and at the same time raise funds and awareness for ovarian cancer research.
“I always have to fight back tears at this event, because I look around and see this sea of turquoise and it’s just completely overwhelming. I can just see my mom in the crowd and I’m overcome with joy and sadness because everyone is here for her in so many ways,” Epstein said.
Many of the participants in the Run/Walk were there in honor of someone they knew whose life had been affected by ovarian or other cancers. Eddie Martinez and his wife, Gina, were there in honor of Martinez’s mother, Dora Martinez, who died of ovarian cancer in 2008.
“This is our fourth year. We’ve been coming every year since my mom died because we wanted to help the cause,” Martinez said. “I always feel good about it when I’m done. I feel that my money is going to the right people, and it’s a good way to remember my mom, even though I remember her every day.”