Twin sisters, and oncology nurses, leading walk for ovarian cancer in mother’s memory

By | September 9, 2020

Twenty years ago, twins Cindy Sanchez and Christa Slatnik lost their mother to ovarian cancer.

It inspired them to follow in her footsteps, and become nurses who work with patients with the same cancer that took their mothers life. 

Now, the sisters are honouring their late mother, Cheryl Pragnell, by co-chairing this year’s virtual Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope in Winnipeg. 

Sanchez works in the oncology unit at the Women’s Hospital, while Slatnik is the only nurse practitioner in gynecologic oncology at Cancer Manitoba. 

Both were already studying to be nurses in university when their mother was diagnosed, but seeing their mother go through cancer pushed them to work with cancer patients, Sanchez said. 

In Slatnik’s work, she sees every single ovarian cancer patient in Manitoba at some point during their cancer journey. 

“It does feel pretty amazing to be able to use the loss of our mother to ovarian cancer to be able to use that for good and help people that are now going through this themselves,” she said. 

The sisters first got involved with the Walk of Hope in 2004, the first time it was held in Winnipeg. 

“It started out as a passion in memory of our mom, but it really turned into a passion for all of the other amazing women that we met and lost along the way [working in oncology],” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez and Slatnik have now been involved with organizing the walk for 17 years. 

Cindy Sanchez and Christa Slatnik with their family at last year’s Ovarian Cancer Canada Walk of Hope (Submitted by Christa Slatnik)

They hope that the walk will help people learn more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can be difficult to detect because they often seem like the same symptoms of your period, Sanchez said. 

“If you think about the fact of bloating, difficulty eating, abdominal discomfort, change and urinary habits, these are symptoms that many women have and it can be cyclical even with periods and stuff, so it can be really easy to kind of dismiss them,” she said. 

“But the rule of thumb we try to go for is if you’re having any of these symptoms for longer than three weeks, then it’s important to make sure that you listen to your body and you go see your doctor and ask to have them check your ovaries.”

Though this year’s event on Sept. 13 won’t have the usual large gathering at Kildonan Park, the sisters are encouraging people to walk with friends and family in their favourite spot, or even on the treadmill. Photos will be shared on the walk’s event page on Facebok. 

By registering for the walk, you can get information from Ovarian Cancer Canada on signs and symptoms to look out for and the latest research on the disease.

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