We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeanene Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jeanene, is your business focused on helping the community? If so, how?
I’m an ovarian cancer survivor. A very lucky ovarian cancer survivor. I was diagnosed relatively early and my chances of surviving the deadliest gynecologic cancer for more than 5 years was 65%. I’m still here 23 years later.

Since I am still standing, I feel it is my duty to give back. Raise awareness. Help others who have walked the frightening path of diagnosis, brutal surgery, and debilitating chemo.

During my 10 years as Associate Director of the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA), I have witnessed the struggle that far too people with cancer face. Our programs have been developed to help all survivors, especially those left vulnuerable by the circumstance of their diagnosis. So many survivors find themselves unable to work due to the nature of surgery recovery and chemo. And that leaves them teetering on the edge of losing their home and having services cut off because they can’t pay their bills. And then there are those who were in a precarious position before their cancer diagnosis.

COCA’s programs help survivors with financial assistance, paying bills each month until they’re back on their feet. And our insurance and financial navigation program works to optimize insurance coverage and seek additional grants for all gynecologic cancer patients.

But financial concerns are just one part of the story. The emotional toll of being diagnosed with a deadly disease whose AVERAGE survival rate is less than 50% is unquestionably traumatic. Guided by professional counselors, COCA’s weekly and monthly support groups build community among survivors and provides real solace to those who have been impacted by the disease. Peer mentors are also available to help remind survivors they are not alone…someone has walked the path before them. COCA also recognized the need for individual counseling and provides free counseling sessions to survivors.

A cancer diagnosis is isolating. COCA strives to make the path less rocky and serve as a beacon of hope by providing assistance and building community through our groups and events.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I worked in the finance industry for a number of years with high net worth individuals. While I enjoyed my work and felt I was very good at what I did, in the end I found it wearisome making rich people richer.

One of my friends had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and it had come back. I remember feeling really angry at that moment. She told me to take that anger and go do something with it. Go volunteer for COCA. I did. I helped organize one of their first awareness campaigns. Then I was elected to the board of directors. I was then asked to help organize a conference on ovarian cancer. I quit my job and got to work on the conference. Then I was hired as Associate Director. Giving up a financially lucrative “career” in finance to work for a small non-profit didn’t make a lot of financial sense but my heart had found its home. And I’ve never regretted that decision for one moment.

As a survivor myself, I’m uniquely positioned to work with women who are on this path. I can tell them “You’re not alone. I know what it’s like”.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One of my best friends recently WAS in the city and we had a full itinerary! Denver Art Museum
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Meow Wolf
Visited The Broadmoor and ate at The Golden Bee and wandered around
Ate at Linger and enjoyed Little Man Ice Cream afterwards

Other great adventures:
Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg
And, of course, no trip to Colorado is complete without a trip to the mountains. Breck is a favorite destination.
If it’s summer (and no pandemic), an outdoor concert at Cherry Creek State Park or RED ROCKS is in order.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Shoutout is to all the women who have faced an ovarian cancer diagnosis. I have learned so much from them about how to remain resilient and hopeful as well as full of grace when facing the end of life. In particular, my mentor when I was newly diagnosed, Carol McGlockin. She told me to “mourn who you used to be and embrace who you’ve become because of your diagnosis.” She was very wise.

Website: www.Colo-OvarianCancer.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coloovariancanceralliance/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoOvarianCancerAlliance

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhlvpk7vSKTgOCy7hjpLHw

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