Remembering Our Friend Joan M. Schaefer

OCSA is honored to dedicate this year’s annual golf outing to Joan M. Schaefer. A delightful lady, we first met several years ago through Roxanne Cochran, Lead Veterinary Technician at Gateway Veterinary Clinic whose Practice Owner is OCSA Board member Kurt Klepitsch, DVM.  From the very beginning, she believed in our mission and the work that OCSA was doing and loved the tie between our organization and the veterinary community. Her granddaughters Emily and Roxanne join us for a little chat remembering Joan and the life she led.

Joan Schaefer 2

OCSA: What can you tell us about the very special OCSA supporter Joan M. Schaefer who passed away from ovarian cancer in September of 2016?

Joan was born in Yonkers, New York in 1931. She was a mother to three children, a grandmother to 8 grandchildren, and a great grandmother to three great grand babies.

Joan loved gardening and was a long-time member of the Pottawatomie Garden Club of St. Charles. She enjoyed needle point sewing, reading, watching new films with friends, and taking vacations to New York to see her younger brother, Bruce.

Joan Schaefer 4

OCSA: Joan was the President of Billco Corporation in Addison, can you tell us about the family business?

Billco Corporation was established in 1973 by Joan’s husband Raymond Schaefer. Ray passed away unexpectedly in 1995, leaving Joan and Steve (Joan’s son-in-law) to continue the business. Together they succeeded in Ray’s wish to build a new manufacturing plant for the company. In 1997, the company moved to its present location in Addison.

Joan continued to successfully run the business for another 20 years, until she fell ill in 2015. The family continues the business taking great pride in selling American made pipe fittings.

OCSA: The diagnosis of any kind of cancer is always a shock and a challenge for the patient and family members. What do you do? Who do you believe?  And what about second opinions?

Joan was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer in late September 2015. It all started with her having urinary issues that doctors did not think anything of. She ended up in the ER when it became too painful.  The option of surgery at her age was a high risk. She opted for chemotherapy. It helped her tremendously, but there were a number of side effects (Joan underwent 9 rounds of chemotherapy). She was doing well and the cancer cells went dormant for about three months. Joan shined those three months! She was blessed with a summer to enjoy time with family and friends that none of us will ever forget. Joan, our grandmother was back!

Unfortunately, in August 2016 the cancer spread with a vengeance throughout her body. We regret that no bloodwork was done those months she was doing well. Maybe she could have fought this cancer again. She tried another form of chemotherapy that made her tremendously sick. It was at that point the decision to be comfortable was in the best interest of Joan.

OCSA: As a veterinary technician who is highly supportive of OCSA’s Veterinary Outreach Program, are we effectively getting the word out about the silent symptoms of ovarian cancer? Do you have any suggestions for us?

Roxanne and Emily, both grand-daughters of Joan attended OCSA’s dog walk in 2015. For the first time, Emily, a mother of two children was learning of the silent symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. Not even two weeks later, our grandmother Joan was diagnosed with this disease.

She carried all of the silent symptoms, so many of us are unaware of. She was tired, bloated, had urinary troubles, felt full frequently, and suffered bad indigestion. Unfortunately, Joan didn’t think much of these symptoms, simply blaming them on “old age”

We both walked OCSA’s 2016 dog walk and unfortunately our grandmother passed away weeks later. September is a sad month. It is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, the month our grandmother was diagnosed with this cancer, and also left us.

OCSA is doing an amazing job spreading awareness, but we feel we need to do more! The statistics are heartbreaking. The more women that know about these symptoms the higher the likelihood of early detection, which hopefully will lead to a higher survival rate!

OCSA information brochures should be in as many gynecological clinics as possible. Waiting rooms are full of women and simply reading information, becoming aware of the symptoms, could be lifesaving!

Gynecological and Veterinary Clinics need to help partner together, the Outreach Program is showing amazing results making a direct correlation with women and dogs. We would love to see flyers/ brochures in waiting rooms for both clinics for men and women to read. The more we broadcast these symptoms, detection can hopefully be picked up sooner.

Joan Schaefer 5

OCSA: What life lessons have you and your family learned throughout this sad journey?

Life lesson learned is to never take your health for granted! Joan was blessed with 83 years of health and unfortunately, did not follow routine exams or bloodwork. She didn’t address her issues later in life, and possibly if they were addressed earlier the cancer could have been detected sooner, rather than at Stage 4. We also regret that not a single doctor performed a full physical exam, which involves palpating the abdomen. If an abdominal exam would have been performed, a doctor could have detected the tumor.

Joan is missed by all! She was passionate about OCSA from the very beginning of its formation 7 years ago, completely unaware this disease would later take her life. We as a family are committed to help spread the awareness of Ovarian Cancer as much as we can!

God Bless!

Meet Our Dear Friend, Mae Novak

One of OCSA’s biggest supporters and a dear friend to many on the team, Mae Novak, is kindly sharing her story with us today. She was an integral part in running the golf outing in July and will be attending the 5K Dog Walk & Fun Run with us on September 11th. The event supports OCSA’s Veterinary Outreach Program, a unique awareness campaign that partners with veterinarians.

Mae Novak

1. How did you become involved with OCSA?
Vallie asked if I would volunteer for the OCSA 2013 Golf Outing. I was assigned registration and this year was my fourth year.  The golf outing is such a fun event due to many factors. The golfers have supported OCSA each year and you couldn’t ask for a better group – also they are a lot of fun and I enjoy the lively conversations with them.

2. Tell us a little bit about your husband and the life you had together.
I lost Ed in 2008 within two week after being diagnosed with lung cancer.  He was not a smoker although his family were heavy smokers.  He was in the Navy and spent time aboard a submarine, which was close quarters all of this could have contributed to his lung cancer.

We were in business and worked together everyday.  We had great respect for what each of us brought to our marriage.

I have so many fond memories, not sure where to start.  I could write a book about our footprints on this earth.

My Ed was a down to earth person.  If there was anyone in need he was there to help him or her.  We enjoyed going to plays, concerts, movies and dining out especially trying new restaurants.  Our real passion was dancing.  We belonged to numerous organizations that had several dinner\dances during the year and we also belonged to a couple dance groups.

Family was so important to Ed and he adored Gail.  He was on cloud nine when Gail & Kurt gave us Ethan and Sidney.  Ethan and Sidney, have been such a joy in my life, they are my shinning stars forever.

Katelyn, Kurt’s niece, 20 years old lost her battle with ovarian cancer August 2013.

Joan my dear friend and neighbor lost her battle with ovarian cancer April 2015.

Janine another close friend had no chance we lost her two weeks after being diagnosed end of December 2015.

I want to climb the highest mountain and sing out loud and clear to all Women. Do not delay going to the doctor if you have any of the symptoms as you have more to gain than loose. If detected in the early stage you have a better chance to beat this Silent Killer.  Ovarian cancer is a deadly disease my passion is to raise awareness so women and men will recognize the symptoms.  I have a word for you men please go to your doctor for an annual checkup.

Your health is our concern, why you ask, we love you.

3. What do you enjoy most about being part of the OCSA community?
I enjoy working with the OCSA members as are they are one great group of people.  I love each and everyone of you for the support you give to each other.  We work hard but we have fun doing it, reason we are all on the same mission, that is to educate, educate and educate if only to save one life at a time.  May the Lord bless us on our mission.

4. Are there any events you look forward to in particular? The golf outing was an incredible success with all of your support.
I volunteer each year for OCSA Dog Walk and any other events that Vallie ask for my help.

I also volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House in Winfield.

The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful life and then with the most loving family I could ever ask for.

It’s my tine to give back in whatever possible way I can.

Join OCSA for the Annual 5K Dog Walk & Fun Run on Sunday, September 11th at Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve in St. Charles, IL. Find more information about the event and register online today by following this link:

Meet The Team Behind Shaggy to Chic

Meet Ginny and Kathy, two very special ladies From Shaggy to Chic. OCSA co-founder, Vallie Szymanski, has taken her Afghan Hounds to them for almost 30 years.  It is very hard to find a groomer who will accept Afghan Hounds because it is quite labor intensive, as you can well imagine.  Ginny and Kathy are so very kind and compassionate to everyone… both owners and dogs!!!

OCSA: Can you tell us what a day in the life of a Dog Groomer is like?

From Shaggy to Chic: Hairy, physically active but extremely rewarding. Unlike other jobs we don’t wake up wishing we had a different one. I’d say after 37 years in the business, that’s pretty darn exceptional!

OCSA: What about your longstanding support for OCSA? You have sponsored the Annual Dog Walk since the first one in 2010.

From Shaggy to Chic: We believe in our community and this is our way of giving back.

OCSA: You have taken very special care of the Ch Khalin, the OCSA Spokes Dog, can you tell us a little bit about the relationship you share with him? We love the “Khalin” shrine you have in your reception area!

From Shaggy to Chic: Khalin is a gentle, sweet boy, always trying to help us in his grooming process. We always look forward to his arrival.

OCSA: We know you take special care of all of the dogs that visit you but can you share your favorite “dog” story?

From Shaggy to Chic: Our favorite story is a Golden named Jake who would come in and lay on his back any chance he could. He obviously ate too many cookies at home. He would literally fall asleep while we were bathing him!

OCSA: What advice would you give Dog Owners on the “hair care” of their pets?

From Shaggy to Chic: The best advice we can offer is a regular schedule for grooming and no bathing in between unless the dog is brushed and combed thoroughly before putting them in the tub!

Meet OCSA Team Member: Melissa Rosner

With the OCSA Golf Outing coming up in July, we sat down with Melissa Rosner who will be running the silent auction for the event. Melissa has been an OCSA supporter for several years, is a committed Chicago Cubs fan and fellow animal lover. Keep reading to get to know Melissa, her personal connection to ovarian cancer and a sneak peek inside the silent auction for this year’s annual Golf Outing.

Melissa 1

OCSA:  How did you learn about OCSA?
I found out about OCSA by searching for local ovarian cancer awareness organizations. I was at a point in my life that I was happy and I wanted to give back and honor the memory of my cousin and others who have fought their brave battles with ovarian cancer.  I am so grateful for all the support we are being shown and I feel very privileged to be a part of OCSA.

OCSA: Can you tell us about your very personal connection to ovarian cancer?
My cousin Kelly Mulqueeny was diagnosed with stage 4 in the summer of 2008 while being treated for a gunshot wound that was inflicted while she was being mugged.  We came to view that as blessing in disguise. We were able to share two years with her until she succumbed to the cancer at age 40 in Aug 2010.  I’m happy that we got share in celebrating the Blackhawks Stanley Cup that year. She was a huge Hawks fan. Everyone who came to know her, loved her as she was so full of life and had a generous giving spirit. I miss her every day. My two daughters Alexandra and Abigail, close friends and my clients helped me out of my grief. I am very grateful for my boyfriend Scott Beck as he has been so supportive of me and my endeavors. I’m looking forward to when ovarian cancer doesn’t affect our wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, and friends anymore.

Melissa 3

OCSA: How long have you been a hairdresser? What do you like about your job?
I have been a hairstylist for over 28 years. I love my job! I am able to make people feel better about themselves.  My clients are family.  We share laughs, tears and some more laughs.  I’ve seen clients grow from birth, to graduating and starting families of their own. I feel so old sometimes! I have been able to help clients cope with various illnesses through my career as a stylist.  It’s amazing just how the value of touching someone, whether doing their hair or giving them a hug when you see them, matters to them and to me.     

Melissa 2

OCSA: We understand you are running the silent auction at the 4th Annual OCSA Golf Outing. Everyone wants to know…what are some of the items that have been donated?
I’m on the committee for the silent auction and the generosity being shown by our donors is awesome but not surprising. We have very caring business owners and partners in our vicinity. Some of the items we’re auctioning off include: a cooking class for six hosted by Chef Didier Durand at his private residence, custom artwork by Artbeat Live, an autographed baseball by Chicago Cubs Trevor Cahill, a basket for the Blackhawks fan, an overnight for two at the Hilton Chicago, two kid baskets for the budding chef in your family and much more.

OCSA: Tell us what you love about Chicago Baseball?
I’m a Chicago sports fanatic. I’ve been a Chicago Cubs fan since I was a kid even though my family hails from the south side. I love Cubs fans!  We have stuck by our Cubs all these years because they are like family.  We share good times and many years of bad times but we still had fun! We fans have stayed loyal even though we have had our fair share of haters and reasons to desert our team but there is no place on earth like Wrigley Field. It’s always a party and the view is awesome.  The energy at the games is like none other, even on opening day when we’re freezing our butts off. This year is proof that you never say never. Go Cubs Go!!!

Melissa 4

Meet OCSA Team Member: Beth Ciszek

OCSA is proud of the supportive community we have created the last few years. One of those wonderful members includes fellow dog lover, Beth Ciszek. Through her faith and kind heart, she has become a vital part of the OCSA team and we are thrilled to have her as the Presenting Sponsor for the 4th Annual OCSA Golf Outing. Keep reading to learn more about Beth and her relationship with OCSA.

Beth and Family

How did you learn about OCSA?
I initially learned about OCSA through Gateway Veterinary Clinic in St. Charles, IL. I have been taking my dogs to Dr. Kurt Klepitsch for years. Over the last few years I had noticed flyers at their reception desk and I had the opportunity to learn a little more at Gateway’s 30th anniversary party last summer.

Beth dog ed

You and your husband have a strong commitment to the community and giving back.  What is the motivation behind that very kind support?
Our belief in God and tithing/giving.

Can you tell us about the Not-for-Profit that your father runs?
ECFA is an evangelical Christian social services agency. They provide many services, including adoption, pregnancy counseling and care, family and individual counseling, and child welfare services, which include intact family services and Safe Families for Children.

Beth kid

You are the Managing Broker for Personal Touch Realty, Inc, can you tell us some of the challenges in the real estate market today?
Lower inventory of good quality updated homes at a reasonable price. These types of homes will come on the market and be gone before buyers get a chance to even look at them. Homes in a higher price range have a much lower pool of buyers so those homes are taking a bit longer to sell.

We are delighted that you are the Presenting Sponsor at the 4th Annual OCSA Golf Outing, what made you decide to do that?
At the end of last year or beginning of this year, I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with Vallie to learn more about the organization and this Silent Killer. I was invited to be part of their planning committee for the Golf Outing and as I met everyone involved and heard their stories, I was overwhelmed with the desire to do anything I could to help.

Tickets for the 4th Annual Golf Outing are now on sale. Visit our website for more information.

A Family That Gives Back

OCSA first met Grace Neri at our inaugural Dog Walk in 2010. As a member of Girl Scout Troop 4058, their task as the Honor Guard was to present the flag of the United States of America that signaled the singing of the National Anthem. She has participated every year. In the last 2 years, in addition to supporting the Fox Valley community, Neri Landscape has supported our golf outings and our Dog walks. It is our great pleasure to introduce you to George (Geno), Angela, Grace, Gus and Gia…a family that gives back!

Neri Family 1

OCSA:  Your daughter Grace has participated in every Dog Walk starting in September of 2010.  Can you tell us about her involvement with the OCSA Team?
Grace and her Girl Scout Troop have volunteered for the OCSA Dog Walk for the past 5 years.  It is a great event to support OCSA and meet new people!  She loves seeing all the dogs and people and has a wonderful time while supporting such an important cause. Grace loves giving back to the community we live in and getting the message out about all the amazing things OCSA is doing to further the fight against ovarian cancer.

Grace Color Guard

OCSA: You kindly supported the Posejpal family through a very tough time, can you talk a little about that friendship?
We have known the Posejpal family for many years.  Our son Gus is in the same grade as Zack & Lindsay and has been friends with them since kindergarten.  Angela & Michelle volunteered on the PTO at Williamsburg Elementary School together and we became friends through those past connections.  We were heartbroken at the loss of our friend all too soon to ovarian cancer.  We wanted to support George & the twins in any way possible.  The small gesture of cutting the grass for George or brightening up his gardens was our way of trying to help in a small way and bring a little ray of sunshine to the Posejpal family during an extraordinarily difficult time.

OCSA: You have a close personal relationship with OCSA Board member Kurt Klepitsch, DVM. How long have you known Kurt?
Geno has known Kurt since high school.  When we got our first dog, we started her vet care at Gateway with Kurt.  He is an amazing and extremely caring vet. Our relationship grew through the years as we brought each of our 5 dogs to Gateway. Kurt has always been a wonderful friend and veterinarian to our family. We also formed a business relationship with Kurt through various landscaping projects at his home and Gateway Veterinary Clinic.

OCSA: Can you tell us about your family landscape business?
Neri Landscape has been in business for 20 years.  We began our business to create beauty and provide superior customer service to our clients.  We are a full service landscape company that offers landscape design and installation; weekly lawn maintenance; brick paver & natural stone work; design and installation of patios, sidewalks, & driveways; water features & ponds; outdoor lighting; spring & fall clean ups; and Christmas lighting.  We have a passion for making your yard look amazing whether it is an oasis from the world, your kid’s playground, or that moment in the day where you notice just how beautiful our world is.

Neri Landscaping

OCSA: You have sponsored OCSA’s events for the last couple of years and you believe in giving back to the community.  Can you tell us a little bit about the other organizations you support?
We love the Fox Valley Community. We try to give back by doing good works and investing in our wonderful community where we are so fortunate to raise our 3 children.  We love to support organizations close to our hearts such as OCSA at the Annual Dog Walk and Golf Event, The Northern Illinois Food Bank-every year we begin our season with an all company food pack, Geneva Beautification Committee-we sponsor and care for a garden by the Geneva Post Office, Williamsburg Elementary PTO-we support the Parent’s Night Out event and Fun Fair event, St. Patrick’s School-we donated to the annual fundraiser, Living Well Cancer Center-we donated to and supported the Stiletto Strut event, Chicago Steel Hockey Team-we are a sponsor of the USHL Jr. Hockey team, Geneva Baseball Association-we have sponsored Geneva Baseball, and Fox Valley Court Watch for victims of domestic violence-we help support through donation.  We believe that creating beauty all around us comes from within.

Grace and kids

Celebrating Mother’s Day With Two Inspiring Women

On this Mother’s Day weekend we would like to introduce you to a very special Mother/Daughter Team who have a special message to share.  OCSA first met Jenny O’Brien in 2010, our first year.  She was the marketing director at the St. Charles, IL Visitors Bureau and was so supportive of the first OCSA Dog Walk and helped us immensely with our outreach to the Fox River Valley Community.  Her mother supported us every step of the way…now learn more about these two incredible women!

Geralyn and Jenny

Let’s get started with Geralyn. This incredible, brave woman is inspiring to talk to and spend time with.

Can you tell us about yourself?
First, Jenny and I would like to thank OCSA for giving us the opportunity to share our cancer journey. “OUR” because cancer truly is a family illness. Everyone who loves and cares about you will be affected and will be part of your healing process.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 at the age of 42 with a second diagnosis of breast cancer in the opposite breast in 2013.  My paternal grandmother and aunt both died from breast cancer, my father was a survivor of esophageal cancer but my sister died from lung cancer and had had colon cancer five years before.  In 2013, I tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene…bringing many new challenges to me and my family. After chemo ended in 2013, I had a mastectomy and also my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed because of my high risk for ovarian cancer.

I cherish being a wife to Mike, mother to Jenny and Michael, sister, aunt and friend. In addition, I love being an Oncology Esthetician at two cancer resource centers, Living Well Cancer Center in Geneva and Waterford Place in Aurora, where I provide safe facials with individual adjustments based on surgeries and treatments each cancer patients receives. I train estheticians to work with cancer patients and continue my education by attending annual seminars at Oncology Spa Solutions.

As a breast cancer survivor and testing positive for BRCA 2 you inspire so many. Can you share some of your positive memories?
I truly believe the support survivors can give each other is enormous and by supporting others helps in our own recovery. I spent many years after my first diagnosis being a Reach to Recovery volunteer supporting other breast cancer survivors just beginning their journey. I like the ripple effect of seeing other survivors giving back and supporting each other. I had a client who was having a hard time after treatment ended with the physical side effects from her surgeries as well as the emotional effects of the fear of cancer returning. I recommended she try the yoga class which has been vital in not only my physical recovery from all my surgeries but my stress and emotional recovery.  She was a reluctant yoga student but one day I saw her helping a new yoga student who was newly diagnosed with some really sweet, encouraging. Integrative services ( can be a vital part of our collective recovery.  It’s important to incorporate stress reducing activities into our everyday lives, because if we don’t take care of ourselves we cannot take care of others!

What advice would you give to the women who have tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation?
It is very important to have a genetic counselor involved in your decision to have BRCA mutation testing. The genetic counselor can help you weigh your options and provide a medical understanding of BRCA mutation for you and your family.  Remember, being tested positive for the BRCA mutation does not mean you will get cancer. Embrace your BRCA diagnosis as it will be a key component in your medical history.  Be sure to pursue a consistent dialogue with your physician who is the “overseer” of your medical success.  Most importantly, balance your day with family and friends and be sure to laugh! I highly recommend that you read the book by Vicki Girard entitled   There’s no place like HOPE, it’s a wonderful guide to “beating cancer in mind-sized bites.”   Other resources include:; & Facing our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) @

Molly 1.0
Meet Molly!

And now we’d like to introduce you to Jenny, Geralyn’s daughter and wonderful supporter of OCSA.

Can you tell us how you met the folks from OCSA?  We seem to remember the adorable Molly and the first ever “Pet Friendly” Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles, IL.
It seems so long ago, so I hope my memory serves me right! But I believe Vallie and I connected when I was working for the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I had created a new event for Scarecrow Fest – Canine Corner. I did this after coming up with our Pet Friendly Travel initiative. Vallie and OCSA ended up having a booth at Canine Corner, and I really enjoyed learning bout OCSA and their mission. My mom and I attended a few events after that for OCSA, including the annual dog walk with Molly J

We were so happy to learn that you own and operate Dream Dance Academy in St. Charles, IL.  Can you share the story of how this dream of yours became a reality?
Owning a dance studio has always been a dream of mine since I was a little girl! I have been teaching since I was 18, but always in addition to my full time job after college. I loved my marketing career but I found every time I left that job to go teach after work, it never felt like WORK. I was determined to figure out how to make teaching full-time a reality….and something clicked one day and I followed my gut intuition to just go for it. You never know unless you try, and I here I am today with a thriving, successful dance studio living out my true “pinch me” dreams every day with my students.

We understand that you and your “girls” will be volunteers at the Annual OCSA 5K Dog Walk in September.  What do you hope they learn from the experience?
We are excited to volunteer and help in any way we can! Our dance company (performance and competition team) does one “give back” a month, as I think it is incredibly important to teach them how to use their voice and position to make a difference in non-dance related things, too. Through each volunteer and give back opportunity we do, we want them to learn leadership, team work, and how important it is to help others. Our give back this month was for Lazarus House and each child brought an item from their needs list. They also made “smile cards” for anyone at Lazarus who may need their day brightened a bit.

Dance Kids

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with genetic testing and the BRCA gene?
When my mom tested positive for BRCA2 during her second cancer diagnosis, I immediately was tested. I could probably write pages on this topic because of all the emotions I went through, but in the end although I was found to NOT have the mutation – it was still a roller coaster of emotions and I learned so much. My story can be found on my blog that I plan to keep up as I still once in a while get messages from people who come across it, who are in my situation or in that “waiting” zone. I am glad to be able to help others, or even educate them – it is a confusing topic that can be a lot to take in and understand.  You can follow my blog at: