LeToy Hannah’s successful battle against ovarian cancer has inspired her to help others fight against the silent killer through her own foundation, 7/11 Discovery To Recovery.
Hannah’s road to survival came unexpectedly. She recalled prior to her cancer diagnosis several years ago on July 11 she had unknowingly battled ovarian cancer symptoms, which over time, became so severe that she could no longer bear it. She said she shared her condition with her doctor and together the two assumed (based on her family’s history of fibroid cysts) that a cyst was the culprit. She said in an ultrasound discovery it appeared that a cyst was on one of her ovaries, which prompted her to get an outpatient surgery.
However, Hannah said during the procedure doctors discovered what was originally believed to be a cyst was, in fact, a tumor. She had Stage 3C ovarian cancer. She said at that time the cyst had spread throughout her organs, which is consistent with the American Cancer Society’s definition of Stage 3C cancer. She learned when she woke up following the procedure that her mother, Stephanie Hannah, made the sudden decision to authorize a full hysterectomy to remove the visible cancer.
Hannah recalled thinking about her life and what was to come next after she was told about her cancer.
“I started questioning, why, how, all kinds of things so I did experience a lot of emotions at that time,” said Hannah. “Honestly, just hearing cancer, my kids are currently 12 and 15 but four years ago they were 8 and 11, so it was a week prior to my son’s birthday.”
Hannah said she attacked her recovery on multiple levels through prayer, chemotherapy, and through holistic means. She said she went through six rounds of chemotherapy, which was a total of 12 doses.
“I became very involved in my church family, praying daily, and believing in a higher power,” said Hannah. “Just hearing cancer four years ago, just the people that I knew personally who had cancer were no longer here and so that’s the first thing I thought.”
African American women are unfortunately disproportionately susceptible to higher mortality rates in gynecologic cancer cases, according to the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. The Foundation cites a report from the Black Women’s Health Imperative that African American women have a lower five year survival rate than other races.
In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimated that 22,440 women will be newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 14,080 will die from ovarian cancer. One in 75 women has a chance of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Fortunately, since that time Hannah launched 7/11 Discovery To Recovery Foundation with the goals of hosting events to educate women about the signs and symptoms, help women who have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer with their medical bills, increase the dialogue surrounding ovarian cancer, and more. She said the name of the organization stems from when she first learned of her cancer diagnosis. She said that she wants to make the color teal in the month of September as widespread as the color pink is for breast cancer in the month of October. She said she has previously worked with the Cancer Support Center in Homewood, Ill.
Recently, Hannah hosted her first “Teal For Toy” Ovarian Cancer Awareness Social in Country Club Hills, Ill. All of the proceeds collected from the event will go towards 7/11 Discovery to Recovery Foundation. She said she is currently helping one woman with her medical expenses for the next three months as she battles her various ailments.
“I had two ladies I shared my story with who were able to catch their disease in the early stages,” said Hannah. “They did not have to go through as much because my sharing of my story allowed them to identify the same symptoms.”