Terry Schaefer (center right), Dr. Agustin Garcia (center left) and guests celebrated Keley Schafer’s life during a recent Bowl-a-Thon to raise money for the Keley Rose Schaefer Memorial Ovarian Cancer Fund to help support ovarian cancer research at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. The fundraiser has brought in more than $10,000.
By Amy E. Hamaker
Keley Schaefer had a life most 26-year-olds would enjoy—working her way through college at Arizona State University, studying neuroscience with an eye toward attending the Keck School of Medicine of USC for grad school. She had even scheduled a phone interview for an internship with USC neurosciences.
But before any of those plans could come to fruition, a suspicious pain in her stomach led to a three-month battle with ovarian cancer. Despite the best efforts of her USC doctors, Huyen Q. Pham, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology, and Agustin Garcia, associate professor of clinical medicine, Schaefer died on June 7, 2011, just a month and a half short of her 27th birthday.
In honor of Schaefer’s memory, her mother, Terry, created the Keley Rose Schaefer Memorial Ovarian Cancer Fund to help support ovarian cancer research at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. To date, the fund has raised more than $15,000 to support Garcia’s work in developing a prescreening test for ovarian cancer.
“My daughter asked me to make three promises to her before she died,” said Terry. “That she wouldn’t be forgotten, that she would be able to help people and that she would have a birthday party every year.”
The fund’s most recent event was the first annual Keley Rose Schaefer Bowl-a-Thon, at which bowlers gathered donations, sponsored lanes and participated in a silent auction to raise money for research at the Norris Cancer Center. Bowlers toasted Keley with red velvet birthday cupcakes frosted with “TBKR” (“The Beautiful Keley Rose”), and helped the fund reach its goal of $10,000 for the event. In addition, Terry’s employer Raytheon has pledged to match Bowl-a-Thon proceeds dollar for dollar for employees who participated.
The deadliest of all gynecologic cancers, ovarian cancer is rare in younger women. Although symptoms can appear in early stages, they are much more likely to occur after the disease has spread beyond the ovaries.
Garcia's primary clinical and research interests focus on women's cancers (particularly breast and ovarian cancers) and drug development. “For ovarian cancer, there are two huge unmet needs,” said Garcia. “We don’t have a way of detecting it early, and although some treatments are available, we need therapies that are more effective.
“We also don’t have a good understanding of why women get ovarian cancer,” he continued. “The funds that have been raised through Keley’s fund will help us fill out these niches in the different projects we’re currently pursuing in detection and treatment.”
Next year’s Bowl-a-Thon is tentatively scheduled for July 20, 2013. For more information on donating to the fund, email firstname.lastname@example.org.