The Mensch List: Raising ovarian cancer awareness
Often, when someone is coping with an extraordinary loss, the feelings can be all-encompassing. When Paulinda Schimmel Babbini’s daughter, Robin, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 20, instead of letting the tragic death immobilize her, Babbini made it her mission that no one else should go through what she had.
Babbini is the founder and president of The Ovarian Cancer Circle, a foundation she started in 2010 in memory of her daughter. In 2004, Robin, at age 16, was homecoming queen and co-captain of the cheerleading squad at Pacific Hills High School. That same year she also started complaining of cramps. Doctors brushed it off, saying it was her menstrual cycle. The symptoms persisted, however, and a year later she was diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer. Robin underwent a hysterectomy and chemotherapy treatments, and was able to enter into her first year of college at University of California, Santa Barbara. Six months later, the cancer recurred; she lost her tumultuous battle in 2006.
Since its founding, the nonprofit Ovarian Cancer Circle, which includes 12 members, has raised more than $35,000 to fight ovarian cancer.
“My focus for starting The Circle is to give ovarian cancer a higher public profile; to support research, educate, heighten awareness to the signs and symptoms of this cancer; and to raise funds for an early-detection test, which does not yet exist,” Babbini said. “So many lives are saved by mammograms, Pap smears and PSA tests [for prostate cancer]. But ovarian cancer is a stealth cancer, almost hidden, with few, and random, symptoms.” They are abdominal pressure, bloating, nausea, indigestion, feeling full but eating less, urinary frequency and constipation, she said. “Knowledge is critically important. I encourage women to pay attention to their bodies, know the symptoms and go to the gynecologist.”
Her group holds fundraisers twice a year and participates in numerous health fairs. They’ve hosted events at Hamburger Mary’s, featuring drag-queen bingo, along with a stand-up show at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood that showcased Sinbad as the headliner. On Feb. 21 at 11:30 a.m., Ovarian Cancer Circle is putting together a luncheon at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Woodland Hills. The group will donate 100 percent of the proceeds to ovarian cancer research. On the Web site, theovariancancercircle.org, donations can be made by purchasing bracelets, scarves and necklaces in teal, the color designated to represent ovarian cancer, at Robin’s Store.
Dalia Hayon, a friend, said she admires Paulinda for her strength and giving demeanor. “As a mother and grandmother, I would not have been able to bear the pain. It takes a special person and a mensch to be able to put aside her suffering, [to] be such an advocate for her girl and make sure other people are aware of it and know more about what to expect. She wasn’t expecting to get, but to give. She is a very giving person.”
For her part, Babbini said everything she does is in memory of her daughter. “Robin is my inspiration, motivation and strength. Her spirit inspires me to stay focused and, with steadfast determination, make a difference.”