If she were around today, Nanci Sargent would be wearing a whimsical hat at the starting line of a 5K race on Nov. 13. “It was a conversation starter for her,” said Kelli Sargent, Nanci's daughter.
Run For Her is an annual 5K run and friendship walk in honor of Nanci Sargent, who succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2008.
“She didn’t like wigs,” said Kelli, 32, of her mother, who participated in the fundraising race until her death. “The hats made her stronger, confident, and made connecting to people easier.”
Watching the signs
For Mike Sargent, Nanci’s husband of 39 years, socks are his conversation-starters. “Not only does it create conversations, it raises awareness too,” said the Calabasas resident, who has numerous white Dri-Fit socks with a teal “Run For Her” logo. A sea of teal shirts—the color that represents the fight against ovarian cancer—appears at the start line of the 5K every year.
But beyond socks and shirts, Mike wants to let everyone know about ovarian cancer and its hard-to-detect symptoms.
“Had we paid attention to the symptoms, Nanci may still be around today,” said Mike, 64.
He said that signs of ovarian cancer are subtle and very similar to other diseases. He cited constipation, bloating, lower back pain, gas, nausea, indigestion and frequent urination as some of the symptoms to watch out for.
“See a doctor if they persist for two to three weeks,” Mike said is the advice he shares with everyone and anyone. “Though there’s no reliable test for it, the success rate is high with ovarian cancer, if it’s caught early.”
5,000 expected to run this year
Nanci had a devoted physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Beth Karlan, who participates in the race every year and continues to show her support for the Sargents.
From 600 people in 2005, participation in the event has swelled to 4,200 last year. From the Cedars-Sinai parking lot, the race has now moved to the Pan Pacific Park to accommodate larger crowds.
With the race now in its seventh year, the Sargents are anticipating about 5,000 participants. “We now have participants from all 50 states and from nine countries,” said Kelli.
“It was a grassroots campaign through and through, from pitching the idea with Cedars-Sinai to eventually teaming up with Sleepwalkers of America,” said Kelli, who sits on the Young Guns committee with her brother Scott, sister Nicole and other young people.
Though fundraising is not a requirement to participate in the run, the event has raised more than $4 million so far for ovarian cancer research.
“We get to know the teams really well, and I think that’s what sets it apart from the other fundraisers,” said Mike. “It’s the personal touch of making everyone feel special and connected.”
Not just for Nanci
Nanci would have agreed. “She never wanted recognition or the attention on herself,” said Kelli. “The run is for mothers, sisters, daughters and friends out there.”
As in past years, a kickoff party for family and supporters will be held on Nov. 12, the eve of the race.
Some tweaks have been made to the event, including adding a health zone for various simple health tests, a bloodmobile for donations and even a washer-and-dryer giveaway.
“If she were around, she’d be so pleased at what has been accomplished,” said Mike. “She would bake her famous chocolate chip cookies, raise a toast and tell all of us to carry on."
For more information on the race, visit the website.