By WALLY NORTHWAY
The family of the co-founder one of Mississippi’s most successful restaurants is in a fight against a life-threatening disease, and they are courageously going public with their battle in an effort to raise awareness and save lives.
Early last year, Lori Newcomb, the wife of Newk’s Eatery co-founder Chris Newcomb, began exhibiting symptoms that are common with innocuous women’s health issues — bloating, abdominal pain, difficulty urinating. But, the mother of three initially brushed aside her pains and pushed on with her busy life.
However, the condition persisted, and subsequent tests revealed that Lori had stage IIIC ovarian cancer.
“My first thought was this can’t be happening to me — this isn’t real,” Lori said. “Then, my next thought was my family. How was I going to tell them?”
Indeed, the prognosis was bleak. More than 15,000 women die each year in the U.S. due to ovarian cancer — more deaths than all other gynecological cancers combined. It is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in American women.
The key to survival is early detection.
“Only 45 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer survive longer than five years,” Lori said. “With early detection and treatment, the rate increases to greater than 92 percent.”
The problem is that there is no effective early screening test for ovarian cancer; however, tests can help identify women who are at risk for the disease.
To that end, the Newcombs are doing more than just talk about Lori’s health.
The family has launched Newk’s Cares, in conjunction with Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Through September, the 70-plus participating Newk’s restaurants will replace their signature black cups with teal cups to raise the spotlight on early detection and continuing research of ovarian cancer. Newk’s will also provide educational information on ovarian cancer signs and symptoms at each restaurant — an ovarian symptoms card — and the story of Lori’s personal journey will also be available to guests in restaurants as well as on the Newk’s Cares website (www. www.newks.com/newkscares).
Newk’s will donate a minimum of $15,000 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, or OCRF (www.ocrf.org) as part of its charitable initiative. And on Sept. 25, Lori and Newk’s Cares will also raise funds for OCRF through a five-hour Ovarian Cycle indoor cycle event in Jackson, where Newk’s is headquartered.
OCRF’s Ovarian Cycle Jackson Ready. Set. Ride! will be held at the Country Club of Jackson. Riders pay a registration fee of $50 and set a fundraising goal of at least $250 per individual rider prior to the event. The fundraising goal for the Jackson event is $50,000.
For more information and/or to register, visit ovariancycle.kintera.org/JACKSON2014.
“Through the courage Lori has shown during her battle with ovarian cancer I know that many women’s lives will be impacted by her story,” said Chris Newcomb, who co-founded McAlister’s Deli in the late 1980s before going on to launch Newk’s 10 years ago. “It is our hope that through her we can improve early diagnosis, positively impact the prognosis for women and keep families together.”
“Obviously, we would love to see a cure,” Lori said. “But we want to raise funding so that research continues at least toward an effective early screening.”
The Newcombs do have hope, and the current news is positive. Lori said she is “feeling good,” is currently in the maintenance phase of her illness and that she hopes other women draw as much inspiration as she has from Newk’s Cares.
“My message to other women is that there is hope,” Lori added. “I urge women to watch for the symptoms. They might be vague, but if they persist don’t hesitate to go to your doctor. With early detection and proper treatment, there is no reason why women with ovarian cancer cannot live a long, beautiful life.”
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