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The Power of Creativity: Dr. Mayer Hope Explores the Intersection of Art and Medicine

March 22, 2019

A young woman stands on a crowded stage with several other women who step forward one by one, each holding a large piece of cardboard. When it is her turn, the young woman takes a few steps forward and holds up her own sign for the audience to read. It says, “Diagnosed with cancer four months after my honeymoon.” The woman then flips the cardboard over; on the other side, the words: “My first child was born in 2008. I’m now pregnant with my second.”

These “cardboard testimonials” from ovarian cancer survivors have become a staple at the concerts of N.E.D., an indie rock band composed of six musically gifted gynecologic oncologists who travel the nation, empowering women with ovarian cancer through messages of camaraderie and perseverance. In the ten years since the formation of N.E.D. (short for “no evidence of disease,” a phrase women with gynecologic cancers hope to hear after treatment), band members have not only inspired the 44,000 people who have attended their 71 live concerts, but they have also raised $1.5 million for ovarian cancer awareness and research.

Joanie Mayer Hope, MD, a lead singer for N.E.D., took the stage on March 22 at the ACCC 45th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit to talk about how her artistry—and that of others—inspires patients and promotes awareness of early warning signs. “By addressing the intersections of creativity and cancer care,” said Dr. Mayer Hope, “we can propel ourselves beyond the individual level and into the larger community.”

Showcasing the work of other physicians who have merged their artistic talents with their practice of medicine to educate, entertain, and inspire, Dr. Mayer Hope said these doctors have been able to mobilize resources to magnify the impact of their messages. As a gynecologic oncologist, Dr. Mayer Hope says that she can be up against considerable odds. Ovarian cancer is deadlier than any other type of female reproductive cancer, and a lack of early symptoms and prevention strategies means that when ovarian cancer is diagnosed, 80 percent of the time it is at an advanced stage.

Determined to turn these numbers around, Dr. Mayer Hope debuted at her talk her “Any Mountain” project. A hip-hop song, video, and app, “Any Mountain” tells the story of patients’ struggle and survival and raises awareness about the potential for using genetic testing to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage. The app will allow women to gauge their risk level for ovarian cancer and steer them toward genetic counseling, if appropriate. Dr. Mayer Hope said her goal is for the Any Mountain project to raise $10 million for ovarian cancer prevention.

The video for "Any Mountain," a beautiful montage that features women at various stages of their cancer journey celebrating their stories, their lives, and their art, is the most recent example of Dr. Mayer Hope using her creativity to mobilize awareness on a large scale. “There is hope for patients with ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Mayer Hope. “When caught early enough, it is curable. But we are only going to get there if we fund the research we need.”

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