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Rose Mary Flanagan's kids keep alive legacy with ovarian cancer foundation

By William K. Alcorn

Saturday, September 19, 2015

By William K. Alcorn


Rose Mary Flanagan died of ovarian cancer in 2012, but her legacy of raising awareness of the disease, known as the “silent killer,” and money for research, is kept alive by her children.

The Rose Mary Flanagan Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s mission is to support research leading to the development of an early-detection test and more-effective treatments of ovarian cancer through community-based events.

On Aug. 31, in preparation for September, which is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, teal-colored ribbons were hung in downtown Youngstown to bring attention to the deadly disease. Teal is the official color representing ovarian cancer, said Rose Mary’s daughter, Erin Flanagan Lonsway, of Boardman, chairwoman of her mother’s foundation.

Erin was involved along with numerous volunteers, including Andi Baroff and Kim Buckley, both of Liberty, whose mothers also died of ovarian cancer.

The Rose Mary Flanagan Ovarian Cancer Foundation’s signature event is its Teal Tini Cocktail Party set this year from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 1 at Michael Alberini’s, 1140 Boardman-Poland Road, Boardman.

Youngstown singer Angelo Babbaro, known for capturing the essence of the Frank Sinatra sound and style, will entertain. There also will be a gift-card raffle, 50-50 raffle, appetizers and dessert.

In her story, as told on the website, Rose Mary said when she was diagnosed she “heard a death sentence.” She said starting the foundation was her way of “giving thanks for this time I have.”

According to the About Health website, ovarian cancer is often called the silent killer because many times there are no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage.

One-third of American women will get some form of cancer in their lifetime, and approximately 1.5 percent of those cases will be cancer involving one or both ovaries.

“Mother formed the foundation primarily to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer so women would know what the symptoms are,” Erin said.

Rose Mary was diagnosed in the third stage of her cancer; most women are diagnosed in the third or fourth stages. Fewer than 35 percent are diagnosed in an early stage, said Erin.

“If diagnosed early, there is a 95 percent survival rate,” she said.

“The main thing is that 1 in 72 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and it seems more and more women are getting the disease at a younger age,” said Erin.

Ovarian cancer is often misdiagnosed as irritable bowel or gall bladder issues. If symptoms persist for a couple of weeks, women should be examined by a doctor, preferably by a gynecological oncologist.

Erin said that an ovarian cancer support group meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Youngstown. There usually is a speaker, and it provides an opportunity from people to talk to each other and share information, she said.

“One of the reasons the Joanie Abdu Center brought us in is if a woman carries the BRCA gene, which can be tested for, she is more likely to get breast and ovarian cancer. It normally starts as breast cancer and comes back as ovarian cancer,” Erin said.

A BRCA mutation is a mutation in either of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are tumor- suppressor genes.

Harmful mutations in these genes may produce a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in affected people. Only 5 to 10 percent of breast-cancer cases in women are attributed to BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. But the impact on women with harmful mutations in either BRCA1 or BRCA2 is a risk of breast cancer that is about five times the normal risk, and a risk of ovarian cancer that is about 10 to 30 times higher than normal.

In addition to Erin, of Boardman, Rose Mary’s family includes her husband, John Flanagan Jr. of Lake Milton and Florida; daughters, Sheila McKinney of Lake Milton, Christine Donaldson of Youngstown, Bridget Flanagan of Lake Milton; and two sons, John “Jack” Flanagan III in Florida and Kevin Flanagan of Lake Milton.

Tickets are $20 per person. For ticket and event information, call or text 330-518-2431. All proceeds benefit the Rose Mary Flanagan Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

Tickets can be purchased via the foundation’s website,, or by calling Erin at 330-518-2431.

For those who can’t attend the event but would like to donate to the Flanagan Foundation, visit the foundation website and follow the “Donate” prompts.