Local woman an advocate for cancer awareness; Athena’s Run set for Saturday

Katie Warren wasn’t sure what it was.

She just knew it was painful.

“I was starting to have lower abdominal pain. I thought I was having appendicitis,” she said.

A CT scan would show a mass, and surgery would show it was serious.

“They found out that it was cancer and that it had grown into my uterus, my right ovary as well, it formed from my left, part of my descending colon and my appendix,” Warren said.

She had ovarian cancer at just 25 years old and would experience a recurrence two years later.

Sarah Nielsen was only 34 years old when she was diagnosed with HPV and precancerous cells in 2010.

She had hysterectomy.

Nielsen would also face a second challenge four years later.

“Turns out it had come back as invasive cancer, stage 2 vaginal cancer,” she said. “It was totally life changing. I was shocked. I really thought that after my hysterectomy that I was done with all that.”

Today, both women are cancer free, but, their work may be just beginning.

They are both actively involved with Athena’s Run – an annual 5K race with a mission of raising awareness and supporting women with gynecologic cancers in the Piedmont.

“It means hope for better treatments, for better prevention, it means a chance to connect,” Nielsen said.

Warren and Nielsen share their stories hoping other women will not be ashamed of what they are going through.

“There is a lot of stigma and judgment, so a lot of women are afraid to reach out for help,” Nielsen said.

They also encourage women to seek medical attention immediately if something seems unusual.

“We know our bodies best, and if something feels off, or wrong, or painful, to just get it checked out,” Warren said.

The 7th annual Athena’s Run is Sept. 10 at Tanglewood Park at 8:30 a.m.

Visit the website for registration information.

Over the past six years, the event has raised more than $450,000 to support research for better treatments and screenings.