Ovarian cancer research support important to Sewickley Heights couple
When Sewickley Heights resident Julie McMullen was 27 years old, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
At such a young age, she was blessed to have caught the rare cancer early but was also concerned about her future ability to bear children. With her daughter Chloe, in first grade during diagnosis, she knew there were more children in her future.
Dr. Thomas Krivak, a gynecologist oncologist at Allegheny Health Network, through six rounds of chemotherapy, successfully treated Julie McMullen. He also was able to save her fertility at the same time by only removing her right ovary, allowing her to have two more children, Richie, 6, and Pippa, 2. Once Pippa was born, Krivak removed the left ovary to prevent future cancer scares.
“Ovarian cancer is lethal and it's not normal to have children and be cured,” Krivak said. “Only 10 percent of patients will actually be diagnosed like this and carry on after treatment.”
Now, 11 years later, Julie McMullen and her husband Mike McMullen are making it their mission to not only give back to Krivak's research to prevent, detect, treat and — one day — cure gynecological cancer, but also spread the word about ovarian cancer and women's health.
So far, the couple has raised and donated nearly $500,000 with all of their fundraising initiatives.
“Because of the research that was done 20 years ago, I was able to receive the great care that I did and now it's our turn to give back,” Julie McMullen said. “We're doing it for our mothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, and all women out there.”
For the past three years, they've hosted a golf outing at Allegheny Country Club that has a wait list to play. The event includes the giveaway of a car and a prize at every hole, as well as a silent auction and a DJ.
“No one expects Lollapalooza on the back nine,” Mike McMullen said.
Last year, the McMullens golf outing raised $202,000 for Krivak's research, making it one of Allegheny Health Network's top golf outings of the year.
The McMullens are owners of Andora Restaurant in Ohio Township and Indiana Township as well as Toscana Brick Oven in Canonsburg. Starting this September, customers at these restaurants will be able to “round up” their check and donate directly to Krivak's research.
The money raised and donated by the McMullens goes not only to Krivak's research but is being used for patient education and support groups. Allegheny Health Network also is using some of the funds for continued expansion of the women's cancer services at West Penn Hospital.
“Not many people want to support patient education and patient support groups, and research grants are drying up,” Krivak said. “The McMullens are extraordinary people and are doing an unbelievable job about getting the word out and donating money, time, space and expertise.”
As Julie McMullen believes, “everyone wouldn't be here if it wasn't for ovaries,” and she and her husband, with the support of family, friends, and the community, want to continue to support research and prevention.
Sarah Sudar is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.