If our letters are any indication, Gene Wilder’s crusade to educate women about ovarian cancer (PEOPLE, June 3) will be a success. More than 100 readers wrote to express their gratitude for his work and their admiration for his late wife, Gilda Radner. Many reported their own experiences with the insidious, silent cancer.
As I read your article, I felt moved to tears in gratitude to Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder. Because of their sharing, courage and sacrifice, I may live a longer life. As a 40-year-old woman, I am about to have prophylactic surgery after finding out that not only my mother but three of her sisters had ovarian cancer. Two have survived. Thank you, Gilda and Gene, for helping me ask questions and seek the expert help that my genetic background has necessitated.
KAY NASH, Tucson
In July 1990 I was diagnosed as having Stage III ovarian cancer. In August I was operated on successfully. After two chemotherapy treatments, I went into remission. My prognosis is good. If not for early detection, I might not have been so lucky. Even though I was scared, my husband and I were not afraid to ask questions of the doctors. This is important for anyone with cancer—get a good doctor, ask questions and expect answers. If not, go to someone else. After all, your life depends on it.
DOROTHY ERICKSON, Williamstown, Vt.
Mine is the turban-topped face smiling next to Gilda at the Wellness Community in your recent article. Gilda was my friend and champion. She imparted to me her spirit, warmth, insights and humor. We fought, laughed and shared with each other, from the greatest challenge to the smallest victory. Although we had the same late diagnosis, physician, treatment and prognosis, I am now fully recovered, cancer free, with a normal life expectancy. Four years ago my family was planning my eulogy. Four months ago they took part in my wedding. God bless Gene Wilder’s efforts so that few others will have to battle seemingly insurmountable odds. For those who do, cancer simply is not an automatic death sentence. There is no such thing as false hope.
MELINDA SHEINKOPF KURZIUS, Los Angeles
Your coverage of the Gilda Radner tragedy provided insight into many of the problems in diagnosing ovarian cancer. I think you should also give the phone number of the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry in Buffalo. Few physicians and even fewer patients have heard of this remarkable facility.
DAVID J. HURRY, M.D., Huntington, W. Va.
It is 1-800-682-7426.—ED.
Your interview with Gene Wilder was touching and informative. As director of the country’s first Ovarian Cancer Screening Center, I feel it is imperative that your readers be informed of the following:
1. While the CA 125 blood test is a simple, low-cost test, it is not an accurate means of detecting Stage I early ovarian cancers. Fifty percent of the time, the test will be falsely negative.
2. The first line of defense is the pelvic sonogram and, more specifically, a transvaginal color Doppler ultrasound examination performed and interpreted by a qualified and specialized physician. In many private-office situations, unfortunately, an ultrasound may be performed by unskilled personnel and interpreted by untrained physicians. A poorly performed test of this nature is potentially fatal.
We believe the CA 125 is a good second-line evaluation if the ultrasound proves suspicious. We also believe that overreliance on the CA 125 will abort the chance to find 50 percent of early, potentially curable Stage I cancers.
MICHAEL CRADE, M.D., Medical Director, Department of Diagnostic Ultrasound
Ovarian Cancer Screening Center Long Beach Memorial Medical Center
Long Beach, Calif.
Bill Johnston, where were you when I was a high school senior? Most of the guys in my school were too macho to go to the proms, so a lot of girls, including me, never got asked. Bill and his dates represent what the teenage years should be all about: friendships and wholesome fun. This young man’s good nature and chivalrous manner will take him far, and I’ll bet he’ll rarely have to spend a dateless Saturday night.
DIANE BACHUS, Lake Worth, Fla.
KEN AND JEAN CHANEY
I can’t even begin to describe how I fell for Ken and Jean Chaney and the family they left behind. I recently lost both my parents six months apart, so I can understand the pain the Chaneys’ children must be feeling. I hope and pray they can find solace in the beautiful words of their mother and the thought that the love their parents had for each other will last throughout eternity.
LISA LOPINOT-ROBBINS, Alpharetta, Ga.