Cancer Survivors Rejoice and Inform, All in Teal

By Jay Behrke

NEWBURGH – National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month launched here last week as volunteers decorated Newburgh Enlarged City School District buildings, trees, and lampposts with teal ribbons, and who better to organize and promote the worthwhile and potentially life-saving event than an ovarian cancer survivor herself.

“We are looking to spread awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer,” said Elissa Dickinson, who – despite being diagnosed with the diseases seven years ago – teaches at the Meadow Hill School, and gave birth just four months ago to Brody, who couldn’t keep his hands of my mike. “I was diagnosed with Stage I ovarian cancer, and I was very lucky. And I go yearly now for an ultrasound and blood work to make sure everything’s good.”

The biodegradable ribbons used help highlight the disease’s often silent symptoms. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States, and an early detection test has yet to be developed. On top of that, the symptoms are subtle and often misdiagnosed, so familiarity with them is critical.

Spearheading the local effort are volunteers with the Corinne Feller Memorial Fund.  “We want to get people asking questions about ovarian cancer,” said Founder Nicole Feller Lee. “With early diagnosis, treatment is 90-95 percent effective, but most women aren’t diagnosed until it’s too late.”

Typical symptoms include: pelvic or abdominal pain/discomfort (bloating), vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets, frequency and/or urgency of urination, unexplained changes in bowel habits, unexplained weight gain/loss, ongoing unusual fatigue, back pain, menstrual changes, and pain during intimacy.

Local florists volunteered their time to tie the ribbons into elaborate bows to make them more attractive and eye-catching. Participating florists for Newburgh include Adam’s Fairacre Farms in Newburgh, and this is the fourth year Phil and Heather in the floral department have helped make these beautiful bows possible.

Corinne Feller was a life-long Montgomery resident and standout student and athlete at Valley Central High school.  After a 10-month battle, Corinne died of ovarian cancer at age 18. Since 1999, the Corinne Feller Memorial Fund has raised funding for local ovarian cancer awareness programs and quality of life initiatives, as well as research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  A survivors group has also been formed through the Corinne Feller Memorial Fund which speaks regularly to women’s groups and businesses throughout the Hudson Valley.

Turn The Towns Teal® is a national campaign being represented in ALL 50 states as well as in Canada and Bermuda. To learn more about the Corinne Feller Memorial Fund, please visit