Article in Aiken Standard, August 31, 2010

Post date: Aug 31, 2010 3:41:11 PM

Aiken to turn teal for ovarian cancer month

8/30/2010 11:30 PM


Staff writer

Aiken turned a bit teal Monday in efforts to spread awareness about a very quiet and deadly disease.

Teal ribbons popped up around the city over the weekend - they signify ovarian cancer awareness and were put up by members of Gail's Anatomy, a Relay For Life team that formed in 2007. The name of the team is in the memory of Abigail Mills, who passed away on Valentine's Day 2007 - she died in less than four months after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Debbie Mills is Abigail's mother and the team captain of Gail's Anatomy. Along with her team, Mills is campaigning to spread awareness about the silent killer in hopes to save the lives of many women.

On Monday, Aiken City Mayor Fred Cavanaugh proclaimed September as National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in the city. The county made the same proclamation on Aug. 23. The town of Jackson delegated September as Gail Mills Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month for perpetuity in 2007.

"The whole thing is to get out the word of the serious nature of ovarian cancer," Cavanaugh said. "It's our hope that the word will get out and this can save lives."

Mills, her mother Ruth Lipham, and team member Gail Ussery, were all present for the proclamation.

"Before now, we didn't hear much about ovarian cancer and we learned about it through a horrible experience," Lipham said, referring to Abigail's battle with the illness.

Mills said that not only does the disease have vague symptoms, it is not widely discussed and the signs are often ignored. Those symptoms include pelvic or abdominal pain and discomfort, vague yet persistent gastrointestinal problems, frequency or urgency in urination without having an infection, unexplained weight loss or gain, pelvic or abdominal swelling, bloating or feeling of fullness, ongoing fatigue and unexplained changes in bowel habits. Ovarian cancer can affect women at any age. If they are suffering from any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, it is recommended that they go to a physician.

Mills added that a Pap test does not detect ovarian cancer. She said Abigail had annual gynecologic exams since she was 18, there was no history of the disease in the family, and she didn't know until after her diagnosis that she had every symptom except for one of the deadly illness.

"I've learned a lot from this experience with my daughter," Mills said, and that experience made her want to fight the obscure disease with awareness.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer found in women - around 21,550 new cases of ovarian cancer was diagnosed in the U.S. alone in 2009.

Mills said that she had never imagined life without Abigail, who died when she was only 30. Mills knew that she had to do something after losing her only child to ovarian cancer.

"I have to tell people about this disease," she said.

Gail's Anatomy has done many things to spread awareness including putting up billboards, having local school sports teams wear teal and more. Mills said that some days are harder than others, but she keeps pushing forward in efforts to save one life at a time by giving a whispering disease a louder voice.

"I make myself continue," Mills said. "I put one foot in front of the other ... Faith gives me the strength to do so."

For more of Abigail's story, information about Gail's Anatomy and facts about ovarian cancer, visit

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