By Cherie Messore
When Ali Gaston, owner of The Nail Place in West Seneca, lost her beloved Aunt Pam to ovarian cancer in 2011, she did what any niece would do. She cried. And then she got angry at a pervasive disease that kills thousands of women every year. Finally, she did something.
“I had never heard of ovarian cancer before Aunt Pam’s diagnosis,” says Gaston. “I was surprised that something so deadly could have such common and benign symptoms, like bloating, constipation, bladder issues, and fatigue. Most women just write those off.”
Still, 22,000 woman will be diagnosed with the disease this year and only 7,000 will survive.
The owner of a business where women are the exclusive clientele, Gaston decided to take action the best way she knew how: she would tell women about her family’s loss and how they could help other women.
Starting last year, Gaston decided to embrace Ovarian Cancer Awareness every September and use the month as a springboard for awareness building and fundraising. She teamed up with the WNY Ovarian Cancer Project and armed herself with information. Then she put out a spare change jar in her shop at 3806 Seneca St in West Seneca. Next came awareness ribbons, ribbon-shaped cookies and dog treats for sale and donations from her clientele. Then she applied her trade: she asked her clients to use teal nail polish for their manicures.
“Just one bright teal nail is an invitation to keep the conversation going,” says Gaston. “It’s a visual reminder to be more aware of your health, and to talk to other women.
“Women who ignore changes in their bodies are often the women who are diagnosed in stage four of this disease. When more women are clued in to symptoms, their survival rate increases.”
Gaston’s goal is to inspire other businesses – large and small – to join in.
“It doesn’t have to be a heavy lift,” she says. “Just having some brochures in the employee break room is a good place to start. Selling awareness ribbons helps, too. It’s said that ovarian cancer whispers, so not only do we have to listen, we have to shout back.”