When I arrive at the park on that late April Saturday morning, I take a deep breath of fresh Carolina air. It’s time to relax after a busy and stressful season of fundraising. The atmosphere is light, face painters and teal swag are everywhere and I know we are about to have a great race and a great day! I can feel that she is with us, looking down and smiling proud, although, she probably isn’t thrilled with the team name. 😜
To know how much the Teal Diva 5k and Dolor’s Ovary Achievers means to the Good family you must first get to know my mom......
My mom, Dolores Good, affectionately known as Dolor (Duh-lore) by my father, was a spunky, full-blooded Italian who was born and raised in Staten Island, NY. She, along with my Dad, Dennis, raised 6 rambunctious children in a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom home successfully - meaning to say, we all made it out alive! The bathroom situation however, could’ve been a bit kinder to all of us!
She raised us in a very strict environment and didn’t let us get away with anything, but to hear my siblings tell it, I got off easy. I beg to differ! She disciplined with tough love, but the important part was that we always felt loved, especially my brothers - they were always her favorites! She was an absolute firecracker! She told it like it was and never minced words but even though those words were sometimes hard to hear, I always appreciated her candidness. There was absolutely nothing artificial about Dolor! She was fiercely loyal to her family and her favorite thing to do in the entire world, aside from shopping for pantsuits, was not to travel the world, or collect diamonds and jewelry (which she absolutely did), but it was to visit her children and grandchildren at their homes. She loved entertaining and spending time cooking, eating and drinking with her family. We would have the most epic family games of trivial pursuit in our home, but Dolor would always refuse to play, stating that she didn’t know enough. Inevitably when a question was asked and she happened to know the answer, she would yell it out from another room at the top of her lungs - not caring which team she helped. We never thought it was funny back then but it certainly is now!
She had a sense of humor like no other, the trouble was - she didn’t know she was funny. One day she pointed to her thermostat and asked my cousin Ed, “Ed, it’s hot in here, would ya check my speedometer?”. Or the time she was at the end of her rope over summer break and drove my three, extremely ill-behaved brothers (all under the age of 13) to the gates of the Mt. Loretta orphanage for children, and told them if they didn’t shape up, she would leave them there. At the same time she said these words my brother Brian yelled, “Hey mom look at that giant pool and diving board they have, this place is great, can we stay?!”. She also told me one day in all seriousness that she was scheduled to have a mammogram done.....on her kidney! When I questioned the test she needed, she was adamant in telling me that she was absolutely getting a “damn mammogram done on my kidney!”. I waited a few hours before I let the cat out of the bag with that one.
She taught me how to love. She taught me about loyalty. She taught me to be humble. She taught me kindness. She taught me about hard work, then proceeded to give me strict orders to clean the bathrooms every Wednesday and Saturday. She taught me how to drive, albeit with two feet - on an automatic car, but I couldn’t be too picky since she was willing! She taught me how to make the famous Nobile family ravioli recipe, a day that I will certainly never forget. It included lots of loud....discussion, hand waving, wine and ultimately, delicious food - like every typical Italian feast!
I will also never forget the day I got the call. My sister called to tell me that my mom had been rushed to the hospital from her home in Florida. Doctors weren’t sure if she had passed out after hitting her head on the bathroom floor or because of the tumor rupturing and the internal bleeding. I remember exactly where I was, exactly what I was doing. The best that I can describe it was the room got “spinny” and I began to tune my sister out as I heard a high pitched noise take over in my ear. That’s when I heard the word........Cancer. “They think it might be cancer”. My attention snapped back - literally, and I asked my sister to repeat what she had said. No. She is 79 years old I thought to myself...How did this happen? How did we not know? Why didn’t anyone find this? Why now?
I began thoughtlessly packing a bag while I was still on the phone with my sister, thinking, I am 6.5 hours away, I can get there first. My sisters had to agonize all night and wait to get the first flight out the next morning, each on opposite ends of the country. I was on the highway headed to Florida within an hour, leaving a brand new job I began 28 days before without so much as a call to let them know I wouldn’t be in tomorrow. And because you wanted to know, I also forgot to pack underwear and socks. I arrived at the hospital by 4:30 am after getting about an hour of sleep. She had gone into surgery while I was in the car and had a partial hysterectomy. They could not finish, nor properly stage the Ovarian Cancer because the bleeding was too bad and they needed to close her up. When she woke up I was sitting next to her. I leaned up to give her a kiss and the first thing she said while covering up her mouth was “Oh I’m so sorry, I don’t think I’ve brushed my teeth in days!”. Of course I laughed. She began to ask questions...where am I? What is happening?... which I attempted to answer. After about 15-20 minutes she snapped her head up in bed and said, “Kerri?! Is that you?! What the hell are you doing here?!” She didn’t know who I was until that moment. My reply, “Yes it’s me! Ma, who the hell did you think was kissing you? The nurses?”. She said, “well they seem to be friendly around here.”
When her Doctor came in to give her and update on her condition, it was then that I realized that no one had told her yet that she had Ovarian Cancer. Everything had happened so fast. Her Doctor and I delivered the news that she had Ovarian Cancer. I will never forget the look of fright, shock, horror and fear that came over her face as she turned to look at me. My only words I could utter at that point was “it’s going to be ok” “you will be ok” “it’s going to be ok”, almost willing myself to believe it as I repeated the same phrase. From that day on, my mom fought the disease like a true bad ass. In three years she had 3 full rounds of chemo and at least 4 major surgeries. Did I mention she suffered three fractured vertebrae on top of everything else during this horrific time? Yeah, bad A$&! She was able to get three more years with her family while she fought. She got to met her first Great Grandson, see some her grandchildren graduate and others begin pre school. She attended family functions as much as she could and even came to Charlotte by herself on a plane, which she was scared to death of, to see my new home.
In a quiet moment during the day of October 2, 2015, when no one was looking, I leaned to Dolor’s ear and promised her I would do something to help. I told her I would help someone else so they wouldn’t have to go through what she went through. I don’t really think I knew what I was saying at that point, only that I wanted her to be proud of me for trying to make a difference. She passed away peacefully that evening surrounded by her 3 daughters, who were there with her when it all began. On my way home to Charlotte, an internet search for Ovarian Cancer organizations led me to Teal Diva. Teal Diva had a 5k that raised money and awareness for Ovarian Cancer! This was it! We needed to do this! It was perfect! Not long after, and over a few drinks to promote creativity, Dolor’s Ovary Achievers was formed.
That first year of the Teal Diva 5k, I invited my brother’s and sister’s to join me and hoped maybe one of them and a few local friends would attend. The first year I was hoping to raise $200 and get 5 people to walk with me, if nothing else, out of pity! We were lucky enough to raise $2,250 and had 21 team members! The second year we raised $4,050 and our team grew to 32 team members. In 2018 we had 49 team members and raised $4,475!! Dolor’s Ovary Achievers began as a way to celebrate Dolor’s life, but as the years have passed, I have come to learn, it has blossomed into much much more! In the last three years of participation in the Teal Diva 5K, Dolor’s Ovary Achievers have raised $10,775 for Ovarian Cancer and an unquantifiable amount of awareness!
The Teal Diva 5k has become an entire weekend of festivities for my family! Like Christmas in April! With 6 siblings spread about the country, it is difficult for us to all get together, but last year, 5 out of the 6 of us were waiting on that start line, arm in arm, listening to Shannon thank all of those women who came before Dolor, all who have been fighting after her, and all who will hopefully benefit from this race, either by funding research, supporting local programs or by spreading awareness. The beginning of the race usually stirs up all kinds of emotions in me, from the team picture to the sound of the start gun, and I am so glad that my siblings and best friends have been there with me. We start the course arm in arm and that’s how we end it as we all cross the finish line. Along the way we high five other teams with awesome shirts, fantastic tutu’s, and all the teal get-ups. When the survivors pass us in their chariots, I often wish my mom was still with us so that she could be a part of the experience and see all the good work that is being done for Ovarian Cancer. There is also a silent sense of camaraderie among the teams and individuals who are participating. They get it. They understand. They have been through the same thing as me; with their sister, their wife, their mother, their grandmother.
In the past three years, Dolor’s Ovary Achievers has been lucky enough to win a few trophies for our fundraising and team participation efforts. Aside from helping the Teal Diva 5k raise much needed funds to help test and detect this disease, offer local programs and support for women battling Ovarian Cancer, Dolor’s team has raised awareness of the signs and symptoms - and NO price tag can be placed on that!! If only one woman is able to recognize the symptoms of gynecologic cancer in the early stages of disease, we have accomplished our mission and Dolor would be so proud!
After starting the day participating in the Teal Diva 5k, Dolor’s Ovary Achiever’s keep the party going by having the Side Yard Party (SYP) where we honor Dolor and celebrate with plenty of food, drinks, toasts and stories. The trophies from the past three years are passed around and plenty of pictures are taken. We even have the Dolor’s Ovary Achiever award (a teal colored boxing glove) which goes to the team member who has gone above and beyond to participate with or help the team in an extraordinary fashion.
For me and my family....and now, many of my friends, the Teal Diva 5k is not just a 3.1 mile race. It’s a way to give back. It’s a way to spread awareness of Ovarian Cancer. It’s a family reunion. It’s a party. It’s a show of gratitude, respect and admiration. It’s Dolor’s lasting tribute.