Trees of Hope: MOCA Survivors Teaching Students

Baihly Warfield
November 27, 2017 09:27 PM

As future health professionals are getting ready to start their careers, there can be a lot to keep track of. 


The Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance hopes to make an impression by having survivors teach students about what they went through with ovarian cancer. 

"We educate more than 400 students a year through the survivors teaching students," Stefanie Gliniany, MOCA community support program manager, said. "It really helps raise awareness to students and future health professionals."

One October afternoon, a group of St. Scholastica nursing students heard firsthand from three survivors. 

"I just went in for an annual exam. I had no symptoms," Survivor Kristine Greer said. "This is a silent killer."

She had an extremely rare form of ovarian cancer, but she lived to teach others about it. 

"I tell every woman, listen carefully to your body, be your own advocate," Greer said. "If something isn't right, and you have symptoms for more than two weeks, such as bloating, abdominal discomfort, you're feeling full quickly after eating, or urinary issues ... go to your doctor."

It's advice that CSS nursing student LeeAnn Butler said she will remember. 

"Their symptoms were so vague and so similar to what we hear as providers on a daily basis that, you know, when we hear from them, it's always something we need to keep in mind and we can't forget about," Butler said. 

Having been there, Greer also offered advice on how to best break bad news to a patient. 

"When a patient is diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it's so helpful if the doctor or the healthcare provider delays that hard news in a very loving, very caring, factual manner," she said. 

Butler said it's important to remember you are speaking with another human. 

"Nobody wants to hear bad news from a provider, and it's very important to be personable and talk with the patient and let them know that you're here for them and you're walking them through this process," she said. 

Graduate Nursing Program Coordinator Patricia Earley said hearing from patients gives the students a holistic view of the treatment experience. 

"Early warning signs are unknown to many women, and to providers too," Earley said. "So it's a good way to get education out there and spread the word that is something that can be detected and treated."

A key part of MOCA's mission is education and awareness. 

"I know the survivors love being able to share their stories and give back," Gliniany explained. "Every story's different, and every survivor has different symptoms, different risk factors, so it's a really great way to get that education out to those students."

Greer said her goal is to use her painful experience to save a life.

"After my diagnosis, I thought, I didn't know much about ovarian cancer. If I don't know, I'm sure there's many women that don't," Greer said. "I need to be a spokesperson and talk about my experience and try to find a treasure in this whole trial."

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Baihly Warfield

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