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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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