Our Story

The mission of the HERA Ovarian Cancer Foundation is to eliminate ovarian cancer by promoting Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness.

HERA recognizes that when a woman is diagnosed with ovarian cancer it is important that she feels empowered to seek the treatments that best fit her needs. At the heart of HERA is the underlying premise that women need to have the knowledge and the confidence to fully understand and advocate for the direction of their healthcare. Through fundraising events that include rock climbing and other physically challenging activities, HERA helps participants discover their own inner strength, while at the same time providing much needed education about ovarian cancer. The money raised targets and supports cutting edge research to encourage early detection, find improved treatments, and work towards a future cure.

HERA stands for Health, Empowerment, Research, and Awareness.

In Greek mythology, Hera was the wife of Zeus, and in a sense, the very first feminist. Hera empowered women to be heard within their relationships and throughout their lives. She encouraged women to find their strengths by following their passions. The HERA Ovarian Cancer Foundation continues to do the same-championing women to empower themselves by taking control of their own health decisions against the often unrecognized threat of ovarian cancer.

Sean Patrick Founder – HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation
1951 – 2009

In 1990 this avid skier, mountain biker and hiker, learned to rock climb – a sport that encompasses all that Sean loved in life. She embraced the requirements of climbing; taking calculated risks, problem-solving, and overcoming physical and mental challenges. It became a metaphor to inspire others to go beyond their comfort zone, to push past and reset the boundaries in their lives. Sean was fond of saying “When you’re out there on a ledge and there’s a storm rolling in, you can’t just cut the line. You have to keep on going and fighting.”

Seven years after clipping her first carabiner at age 46, Sean was considered an accomplished climber. At the same time, she faced the greatest test of her life: a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. During her recovery from surgery, she decided to use her passion for the outdoors to address the lack of awareness, information, and funding for ovarian cancer by creating the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation. She formed Partners in Action and launched the popular HERA Climb4LifeSM three-city fundraising event series.

Sitting on a half-dozen boards working on cancer-related issues, Sean met dozens of women suffering from ovarian cancer and taught herself everything she could about the disease. “I had a lot of time to think,” she said. “I became interested in what were the political, social and funding obstacles to coming up with better testing for the disease and more effective treatments – you know, those middle of the night rants that take place in a hospital room. I decided we needed to frame the dialogue as a political and social problem versus a health/medical problem. I wanted to understand what the obstacles were to timely access and quality care. I guess part of the reason I got involved was a way of taking back control of my life.”

On January 20th, 2009, our dear friend, partner, sister and mentor succumbed to ovarian cancer after a twelve-year battle. She fought the disease personally, as well as for all women. Sean traveled nationwide to seek the best care, latest treatments, and most progressive ovarian cancer research. It was her wish to share her knowledge and experience to improve the lives of other women afflicted with this disease. However, her legacy reaches far beyond those impacted by ovarian cancer, validated by the thousands of women who have been touched by her compassion, selfless commitment and endless dedication to change.

In the whirlwind that became her life as an advocate for women, Sean passes on a valuable lesson she learned: “We all have the power within us to change the world in a positive way. It just takes one idea, one individual, one scientist, one company or one community to make a difference in the world. That’s the power of one.”

Ovarian Cancer
What You Should Know
Ovarian cancer is not an uncommon disease. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among women and kills more women than all the other reproductive cancers combined.

Ninety percent of women who get the disease have no family history.
Ovarian cancer has symptoms, even early-stage disease. According to a recent study by Barbara Goff, only 11% of women with early-stage disease had no symptoms.
There is no reliable test for ovarian cancer like the Pap smear for cervical cancer or the mammogram for breast cancer. Over 78% of the women diagnosed this year will be diagnosed after the disease has spread when the chance for survival is less than 20%.
When ovarian cancer is caught early, it is highly curable.

Early Detection Saves Lives
One in 75 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime. It affects mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. With early detection, about 92% will survive longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Currently, only 20% of ovarian cancer is caught early. Estimates for ovarian cancer in the United States for 2017: about 22,440 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and about 14,080 deaths will occur. It ranks fifth as the cause of cancer deaths in women and accounts for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. (Source: American Cancer Society)

Signs and Symptoms of ovarian cancer
There is no screening method for early detection of ovarian cancer. Pap smears test only for cervical cancer. The symptoms of ovarian cancer are vague and often overlooked, leading to later detection:
· Abdominal swelling or bloating, increased girth
· Persistent pressure or pain in the abdomen or pelvis
· Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
· Urinary concerns, such as urgency or frequency
· Change in bowel habits with new onset constipation and/or diarrhea
· Unexplained vaginal bleeding
· Nausea, indigestion, or gas
· Unusual fatigue. Shortness of breath.
· Unexplained weight loss or gain

Any woman may have these symptoms for reasons not related to ovarian cancer. However, if these symptoms are new and unusual and persist daily for more than two weeks, a woman should see her doctor, preferably a gynecologist, and should ask about ovarian cancer. A transvaginal ultrasound, pelvic/rectal exam, and CA125 blood test may be necessary. If ovarian cancer is suspected, see a gynecologic oncologist immediately. (Source: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund)

95% of patients with ovarian cancer report symptoms, most commonly:
· abdominal (77%)
· gastrointestinal (70%)
· pain (58%)
· constitutional (50%)
· urinary (34%)
· pelvic (26%)

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can occur in the abdomen even though the ovaries are in the pelvis. Do not ignore persistent and unexplained abdominal symptoms. Ask your practitioner to perform a pelvic/rectal exam at a minimum or refer you to someone who can. Ask your practitioner about the current status of blood marker and transvaginal ultrasound for the detection of ovarian cancer.


Women of all ages can get ovarian cancer, although it is more common among women who have undergone menopause. Read More
If your ovaries were healthy when they were removed, then it is unlikely. If you had ovarian cancer when they were removed, it is possible that the ovarian cancer spread to other sites before the ovaries were removed. Read More
No, the pap smear test screens for cervical cancer. Read More
There is not a single reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. A combination of a CA125 blood test, a pelvic ultrasound, and discussion of symptoms with a gynecologic oncologist is the best it can get at this time. Read More
Not all ovarian cancer is hereditary, but inherited mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes leads to increased risk in ovarian cancer. Read More
Very complex algorithms and models are used to figure this out. Check out the Johns Hopkins Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service (BOSS). This clinic offers risk assessment for breast and ovarian cancer to both affected and at-risk individuals. The service is provided by a team of clinicians including physicians, genetic counselors, and nurse practitioners. Read More

Check out HERA’s new Ovarian Cancer Infographic – Statistics, risk factors, questions to ask your doctor and more – in one nice looking, easy-to-share pdf. Download and Share.


Board of Directors

Heidi Wells (President)
National Channel Manager, Cardinal Peak Technologies
Denver, CO

Angie O’Connell (Treasurer)
VP Finance, Live Consulting
Arvada, CO

Tonya Clement (Secretary)
General Manager, Cardinal Peak Technologies
Co-Founder, Beyond Everest
Boulder, CO

Ruth Slater
Energy Advisor, Braintree Electric Light Department
Boston, MA

Richard Luck (need bio info
Lisa Ingle (need bio info)

Meghan Baker
Marketing and Communications
Enterprise Holdings
St. Louis, MO

Sophie Binder
International Designer and Illustrator
St. Louis, MO

Jill Slansky
Immunologist/Associate Professor
University of Colorado School of Medicine
Denver, CO

HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation
P.O. Box 20791
Boulder, CO 80308

Mailing address:
1647 S Logan St
Denver, CO 80210

Medical Advisor
Kian Behbakht
Professor, Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of Colorado Hospital
Denver, CO

Sarah Adams
Assistant Professor, Gynecologic Oncology
University of New Mexico Cancer Center
Alburquerque, NM