Oct. 12 marked two years since Elizabeth Amisano, a Watkins Glen resident, died from ovarian cancer at the tender age of 20. Kathy Decker, parish secretary for Schuyler Catholic Community, noted that she lost her best friend as well in 2005 to the same disease.
“I’m still not over it, and don’t know if I ever will be. By the time they discover it, it’s too late,” Decker remarked.
If there’s any silver lining to these tragedies, it’s that more area women are stepping forward to be educated about the deadly illness. Decker was among more than 50 people who attended a seminar on Sept. 20 at the ARC of Schuyler building in Watkins Glen. Featured speakers were Erin Houghton, an expert on the genetics of ovarian cancer; and Dr. Nancy L. King, who discussed early detection of the disease. A question-and-answer session followed their talks.
“The room was packed. They had a wonderful turnout, and it was very informative,” said Decker, who noted that participants came from such surrounding communities as Hammondsport, Corning and Addison. “It’s an ongoing educational process. The more that we know, the better armed that we are.”
The gathering was arranged through the Elizabeth Amisano Ovarian Cancer Education Fund, also known as “Live Like Liz,” a group that strives to promote ovarian cancer awareness. Beth Duane, a Schuyler parishioner who served as the event’s publicity chair, said the foundation’s chief goal is to work toward “converting symptoms of ovarian cancer from an ‘undiscussable’ to a ‘discussable.’ The symptoms are so similar to what females may experience on a monthly or regular basis, that we really need women to be in tune with changes to their body.”
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer of the ovaries ranks as the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women. Live Like Liz asks women to pay heed to such bodily symptoms as pelvic or abdominal pain or discomfort; vague but persistent gas, nausea and indigestion; frequent or urgent need to urinate in absence of an infection; unexplained weight gain or loss; pelvic and/or abdominal swelling, bloating and/or feeling of fullness; ongoing unusual fatigue; and changes in bowel habits. If the symptoms persist and aren’t resolved by diet change, exercise, laxatives or rest, women are urged to see their doctor.
Live Like Liz has gained funds through private donations and by holding two road races in Montour Falls, attracting several hundred participants as well as numerous volunteers and financial supporters.
“There is so much joy and positive energy surrounding this young initiative. The Schuyler community and surrounding region has been so supportive, it can be overwhelming at times,” Duane commented, noting that organizers for the Sept. 20 seminar had hoped for 25 participants and got more than double that amount, with attendees ranging in age from teen to senior citizen.
“It truly warmed the heart. The speakers were fantastic and commented on the positive energy in the room and the momentum that is building to something big. Many asked that we take the seminar to different communities,” Duane said.
These efforts are a stirring tribute to a young woman who touched many. Liz Amisano was a three-sport athlete at Watkins Glen High School, from which she graduated in 2003. She also was active at St. Mary of the Lake Church and in diocesan youth retreats and conventions, serving as an inspiration with her positive personality and deep spirituality. Amisano’s cancer was discovered in November 2003, during her first semester at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. She had several surgeries and chemotherapy treatments before the disease claimed her life in late 2005.
Duane said that she has felt helplessness over Amisano’s death, but that “communicating the mission of Live Like Liz is just one way we can try to make ourselves feel better and make sense of it all. If we can save just one life, our efforts will be worth it.”
Father Paul Bonacci, pastor of Schuyler Catholic Community and presider at Amisano’s funeral Mass, recalled the comment being made at the funeral that “the ties that bond us together in love do not end with death.” He lauded the efforts of Amisano’s family, particularly her parents, Denis and Christina, in supporting the foundation in their daughter’s memory.
“Denis and Chris, they have just such a profound love for their family and for Liz. They show their love in trying to help the community,” Father Bonacci said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Donations to the Community Foundation of the Elmira-Corning Area, specifying the Live Like Liz Fund, may be mailed to P.O. Box 434, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. Further details about Live Like Liz Inc. can be found by visiting www.livelikeliz.com.