Turn the Towns Teal campaign battles ovarian cancer in Roselle

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ROSELLE, NJ — September was recognized as Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month at Roselle’s Borough Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15, with a Turn the Towns Teal campaign. Ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cause of cancer deaths among women, according to the American Cancer Society, with about half of the women diagnosed being 63 or older. Although rare in women younger than 40, ovarian cancer is growing more common in women ages 41 to 60.

“Proclamation Turn the Towns Teal is an awareness campaign for Ovarian Cancer Month. From the mayor, Borough Council and the borough of Roselle,” Councilwoman Cynthia Johnson said on Wednesday, Sept. 15. “Whereas Turn the Towns Teal is a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer, its symptoms and risk factors. During National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in September, volunteers call attention to this disease by tying teal ribbons in various locations, including towns, businesses, places of worship, neighborhoods and individual properties.

Johnson said that Turn the Towns Teal was started by Gail McNeil of Chatham, who was inspired by her own experience. During McNeil’s 10-year battle with ovarian cancer, Johnson said, McNeil realized firsthand that not enough was being done to publicize the symptoms of this disease.

“She wanted to spare others what she and her family endured, and, whereas ovarian cancer is the most serious gynecological cancer, with no early detecting tests available, it’s often referred to as the silent disease, because the symptoms are often vague and subtle,” said Johnson. “If detected in early stages, the survival rate for ovarian cancer is 90 to 95 percent, which is why awareness is critical.”

The proclamation honored the Pinho’s family, which has lost two family members to ovarian cancer, and was presented to the family by Johnson.

Linda Resende, whose family owns Pinho’s Bakery in Roselle, runs GRACEful Hope Foundation, and Sergio Rocha, who lost both his wife and his daughter to the disease, is the founder. Resende spoke about losing first her cousin Grace Rocha, Sergio Rocha’s wife, and then Grace’s daughter, Erika, who was just 20 when she died in 2011.

“Grace was the first to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and then her daughter was diagnosed a couple years later, at the age of 16,” said Resende on Tuesday, Sept. 21.

“Any organization that does ovarian cancer awareness signs up with Turn the Towns Teal and what we do is we put out teal ribbons to show awareness and bring support to this cause,” she continued. “We do several towns. This year, we have not done as many, due to COVID-19. We’ve done Newark, Elizabeth, Roselle, Jersey City and New Brunswick. Being that Roselle is our home base, it’s where GRACEful Hope is established and where Erika lived her final couple years. This was her home, so it was very important that we continue in Roselle.

“At times, they were both in the hospital at the same time fighting this,” added Resende. “Grace passed away first, but then, sadly, Erika did. Being that, I worked with Pinho’s Bakery and it’s an established business here in Roselle. I was able to get help from the mayor at the time, bringing awareness to ovarian cancer, because it wasn’t talked about as much. (Roselle Mayor) Donald Shaw has been with me since 2014, and he actually made it possible for us to bring Erika’s dream of the GRACEful Hope Walk to life and make it a reality. In 2014, we had our first GRACEful Hope Walk with the help of Donald Shaw … and every year after that. Roselle has been a great supporter of me and my family, helping us bring awareness to this disease.”

Resende said how grateful she and the Pinho family are to Roselle for being presented with this proclamation in honor of Grace and Erica.

“It’s very humbling, but it’s an honor,” Resende said. “To finally see people talk about it and acknowledge it and educate themselves about it is amazing, and that is our ultimate goal. It’s to just have people talk about this and to learn their bodies and learn their symptoms. To receive that proclamation and to have Roselle behind our family and acknowledge us year after year to help us with this fight is very humbling.”

To get more information about GRACEful Hope, visit its homepage at http://gracefulhope.weebly.com/about.html and its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GRACEfulHope.