Mark ‘TEALtember’ by learning about ovarian cancer, NormaLeah

Jodie Kavensky
Jodie Kavensky holds a gift bag of comfort items to be delivered to ovarian cancer patients at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. CREDIT JAN TOUNEY

In a world where business and health intersect, employers’ responsibility to safeguard their employees’ well–being is increasingly important. Beyond profits and performance metrics, the health of a company’s workforce is the cornerstone of success — employees who feel cared for are more likely to be engaged, productive and loyal to their employers. In this context, advocating for cancer awareness becomes a noble endeavor and a strategic imperative.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (we call it TEALtember), a time when we shine the light on ovarian cancer. My dying mother begged me to “speak for all the voices that have been silenced by this disease,” and NormaLeah Ovarian Cancer Initiative (NLOCI) has grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In the past 15 years, we have raised more than $1 million to improve the gynecologic health of our community.

normaleah ovarian cancer initiative Jodie Kavensky

Charity begins at home and, while our programs have a national reach, safeguarding the health of our friends and neighbors is of utmost importance. Our five “home-grown” initiatives empower and support Quad Citizens impacted by cancer, especially ovarian. 

Perhaps you have seen us at a community event where we distribute information, provide resources and sell Bling4Cancer jewelry. Our continuing education program about the disease is offered to practicing medical professionals; we are a “go-to” resource in the ovarian cancer community.

The most visible local program, girlpARTs sculpture project, is a collaboration between community leaders, businesses and artists. It’s a collective effort to raise awareness of the genetic connection between ovarian, breast and other cancers. Nine new sculptures will debut at Riverssance Festival of Art on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16 and 17, before being placed around the community.

To keep our local workforce thriving, Sisterly Advice empowerment workshops educate employees about symptoms, risk factors and testing for ovarian cancer. With no screening test and many misconceptions about the disease, our goal is to have cancer diagnosed earlier, when treatment is more successful.

Since 2008, when we were established as a public charity, our efforts have contributed to a healthier workforce as well as a decline in the incidence rate of the disease. As we enter our next growth phase, we are focusing on involving more of the business community — because employee health is community health. Please help us rise up against ovarian cancer!

To learn more and to get involved, visit, email, or call us at (309) 794-0009. We’re here to help.

Jodie Kavensky is founder and CEO of NormaLeah Cancer Initiative, based in Rock Island. She can be reached at

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