During Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, in September 2010, a teal ribbon was hung in the portico of the White House in recognition of the disease which took the life of President Obama’s mother. The White House recognition, as well as the proclamation signed by President Obama declaring the awareness month, were due in large part to the efforts of cancer survivor and patient advocate Annette Leal Mattern.
Mattern’s devotion to patient advocacy comes from a strong personal desire to give her life greater purpose. She has been an ovarian cancer survivor for more than 23 years and is also a two-year breast cancer survivor. She retired from her position as Vice President of Marketing and Operations for a major telecommunications firm to devote her energies to making a difference in women’s cancers.
Her accomplishments are many. She published a book, Outside the Lines of Love, Life, and Cancer, about coping with cancer and surviving life. She is president of the board of directors of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and president and co-founder of the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Arizona. She’s also an EmpowHER member and HerWriter, contributing multiple articles on ways women can learn to not just survive cancer, but also live well, advocate for their health and move forward with their lives. She’s a LiveStrong inspirational speaker, sharing her story nationwide to motivate women to live their best life.
Mattern describes her life’s mission as empowering women and finding joy. When she was chosen as president of the board of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance she said she accepted with grave responsibility and great optimism. A strong team player, she said she was encouraged by her colleagues - a board and staff of dedicated professionals who give their time and talents because of a shared belief that one day they will "change the horror that is ovarian cancer."
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and the local chapters, provide a place where every aspect of ovarian cancer survivors’ lives comes together. The group works to keep the patient’s voice in the national debate about cancer research; argues for better care and links the community to resources of scientific merit. Another role is alerting patients about choices that may enable a longer, better life. Through a national network of partner members, the advocacy group raises awareness of symptoms that could save other women through earlier diagnosis. Their efforts have been recognized by the White House, Congress, the National Cancer Institute and others.
Ovarian cancer supporters use teal as their color, and welcome others who want to join the “teal army” and provide support. Mattern says, “My own personal journey has allowed me to meet remarkable people, individuals inextricably tied to each other, not because we share a disease, but because all of us have been touched by it. I am inspired by every woman’s story, touched by every family’s pain. I rejoice with each small victory and cry for too many of us taken before our time. It is our cumulative journeys that fuel my passion to make a difference.”
National Ovarian Cancer Alliance:
EmpowHER Ovarian Cancer Community Page:
EmpowHER Ovarian Cancer Resource Page:
Beat Ovarian Cancer Campaign: