NASCAR and Ovarian Cancer Awareness
- Sherry Pollex, an inspiring two-time ovarian cancer survivor, gave the opening command to “Start your engines!” at a NASCAR race over the weekend in Bristol, Tenn.
- Pollex’s partner, NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. started the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation to promote ovarian cancer awareness and research. Pollex founded SherryStrong.org, which provides additional resources and support to ovarian cancer patients.
- The symptoms of ovarian cancer are subtle and easy to misdiagnose, so patients are often not diagnosed until their cancer has reached an advanced stage. Over the past decade, a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors have made a significant difference in how some patients are treated.
Pollex is the longtime partner of NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. On Twitter, Pollex dedicated her command to “all the women out there fighting this horrible disease.” Fans responded calling the announcement the “best command ever!” and saying, “We could feel it down in our souls!” The user @nascarcasm joked, “DANG – my car in the driveway started and I’m in Indianapolis.” One fan, whose mother is a three-time ovarian cancer survivor, said that the command brought a tear to her eye.Read More
Truex’s car for Saturday’s race
Johnny Morris, CEO of Bass Pro Shops and sponsor of the race, surprised the couple by decking Truex Jr.’s car out in teal, the ovarian cancer awareness color. The car was decorated with the teal ribbon logo, the URL “SherryStrong.org,” and the words “Find a Cure.”
Truex Jr. and Pollex are both passionate advocates for ovarian cancer awareness. Created in 2007, The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation recognizes that childhood and ovarian cancers are some of the most common, yet some of the most underfunded diseases faced by women and children today. “Without dedicated and consistent charitable support,” the Truex Foundation website says, “Help for relief and recovery may literally stop in its tracks.”
Pollex poses before driving the pace car during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 30, 2018.
The Family’s Journey with Cancer
In 2014, Pollex was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer, meaning the cancer had spread from the ovaries into the abdomen. Her doctors told her that her chances of survival were 30% over the next five years.
Pollex had a radical hysterectomy—a seven-hour debulking surgery, as well as 17 months of chemotherapy. Throughout her treatment process, Pollex lost her appetite, her weight, and her hair. “Cancer is the ultimate humbler,” she wrote. “You wake up every day staring death right in the face. If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what will!”
“At 35, I heard the words ‘ovarian cancer,’ and my life changed forever, ” Pollex writes. But she is grateful for her support network of friends and family who have been with her through her journey. “Trust me, I know how lucky I am,” she writes.
Martin Truex Jr. and Sherry Pollex after Truex won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 22, 2017.
She also knows how temperamental life can be. “Even scarier than being diagnosed has been finishing treatment, though,” she said. At least during treatment, she knew that she was actively fighting the cancer.
Last year, in 2020, she was re-admitted to the hospital for a recurrence of her ovarian cancer. After a successful surgery removed three visible tumors, she began chemotherapy once again.
When she turned 37, Pollex created SherryStrong.org to encourage women to take a proactive approach to ovarian cancer, to know their bodies, and to explore wellness practices that could compliment conventional treatment.
On her site, Pollex refers to “the gift of cancer” as “the ultimate wake-up call.” It taught her to live in the present, appreciate moments of beauty, and to work every day to deepen relationships and create memories with loved-ones. Through SherryStrong.com, she shares this wisdom and creates a sense of connection with people around the world who are fighting the same battle.
Ovarian Cancer Basics
Ovarian cancer includes over 30 different types of tumors that grow in the ovaries, which are the organs responsible for producing a woman’s estrogen and eggs. Women have two ovaries—one is located on each side of the uterus.
For many patients, ovarian cancer may present minor symptoms or no symptoms at all when it is in its earliest and most-treatable stages. By the time significant symptoms appear, the cancer is usually more developed, making treatment challenging.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can be subtle, which is one reason why so many cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage.
There are several risk factors for ovarian cancer worth noting. Ovarian cancer is rare in women under 40, and more likely to occur in women who have gone through menopause. A family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer also increases risk. Having a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene will increase your ovarian cancer risk, and if a mother or father has one of these mutations, there’s a 50% chance you have it as well. Being overweight or obese increases your risk, and also makes the treatment process more challenging and potentially less effective if you are diagnosed. Women are also at higher risk if they had their first child after the age of 35 or were never pregnant.
Ovarian cancer is hard to detect early, but it may be preventable in some women. Learn which strategies might lower your risk for this cancer.
Thankfully, recent years have brought significant advancements in the treatment options available for ovarian cancer. For some patients, PARP inhibitors can be a game changer.
PARP inhibitors are a type of targeted cancer medication taken orally. They work by blocking cancer cells from repairing DNA damage, which causes the cancer cells to die. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. David Engle of Baptist Medical Group explained that this can extend the period of time in which the cancer remains in remission, and in some cases, prevent it from recurring all together. PARP inhibitors can be used during the first diagnosis of ovarian cancer as a maintenance medication, or used as a maintenance drug with recurring ovarian cancer.
Patients with BRCA1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations are more likely to respond positively to PARP inhibitors. These genetic variations increase the likelihood of ovarian cancer, as well as breast cancer and pancreatic cancer. These genes also play a part in repairing cells, so people with mutations in one or both of the genes already have a faulty repair system. PARP inhibitors interfere with this process further, making it harder for cancer cells to repair themselves.
PARP inhibitor drugs are very effective against ovarian cancer, but they can cause unpleasant side effects. Learn what to expect when you take these drugs, and how to manage any side effects you do have.