Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fifty States, One Mission

When Jenn Sommermann was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer, she was inspired to not only beat the disease herself, but help others beat it as well. Five years later, Jenn is a cancer survivor and triathlete, swimming, biking and running across the country to raise money and awareness – one race and one state at a time.

Five years ago, at the age of 42, Sommermann, a massage therapist and financial consultant, was on top of the world and eager to conquer the world of triathlons. She was busy getting in the best shape of her life when she received the grim diagnosis that would change everything: stage III ovarian cancer.Like many women who get diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sommermann was shocked. She hadn't felt "right" for months, but the symptoms she'd felt were not indicative of cancer, many doctors told her. There was indigestion, a 5-pound weight gain and some fatigue; all vague symptoms that have given ovarian cancer the label of "silent killer."

Not satisfied with initial tests from doctors, Sommermann pushed for more answers after feeling her lumpy stomach one day in bed. Doctors eventually found a 6-pound eggplant-sized tumor in her pelvis and within four days, Sommermann was undergoing a full hysterectomy and chemotherapy, which ultimately eliminated the cancer and saved her life.

Today, Sommermann is cancer-free and healthy, and she is helping other women become aware of the reality of ovarian cancer by competing in triathlons. But it's not just a few triathlons she's competing in – it's 50, to be exact. Her goal is to complete 50 triathlons in 50 states by her 50th birthday and raise $100,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) in the process.

"No one has to die from this if it's detected early. I have an opportunity, I am able to help and I almost feel an obligation," said Sommermann. "I was spared; there is a reason I was spared. I want to use that for the greater good."

So far, all of Sommermann's efforts are paying off. She has been able to raise over $40,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and has the rest of the year planned out. She has 11 states to compete in this summer and plans on doing at least 10 more triathlons in 2012. To follow her journey, visit her blog at

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