Auction focuses on ovarian cancer

Posted 9/17/08

Robyn Lydick Seventeen years ago, Elanor Pifer Harris, Miss Littleton 1957, felt a little tired, bloated and had a lot of monthly pain. It persisted …

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Auction focuses on ovarian cancer


Robyn Lydick

Seventeen years ago, Elanor Pifer Harris, Miss Littleton 1957, felt a little tired, bloated and had a lot of monthly pain.

It persisted and she went to her doctor who said, variously, that it was gas, menopause, irritable bowel syndrome or endometriosis.

So Harris went in for a hysterectomy for endometriosis, a painful condition where the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterine cavity.

Her surgeon found stage IV cancer in her ovaries and bowel.

Harris went through chemotherapy for three weeks when the doctors told her husband to take her home and try to ease her pain.

The prognosis was a month or two.

Harris lived another 18 months, trying Taxol, but losing the race in 1992.

In the intervening years, her two daughters, Trisha McCombs and Tracy Hines, owners of Arts of Fire in Highlands Ranch, have had complete hysterectomies because they showed possible signs of ovarian cancer.

"Get tested," Hines said. "I would never have known about ovarian cancer if my mom hadn't died from it."

In reality, there is no universal screening test for ovarian cancer. A Pap smear only tests for cervical cancer.

Hines suggests that every woman get a baseline number for CA 125 markers and get annual transvaginal ultrasounds.

CA 125 is a tumor marker, a certain type of cell produced in the body.

Numbers of the marker can elevate with situations other than ovarian cancer, such as first trimester pregnancy, ovarian cysts and endometriosis. While 80 percent of stage II to IV ovarian cancer patients have elevated CA 125, only half of women with stage I ovarian cancer have elevated levels, according to the Johns Hopkins pathology department, which is why the ultrasound is advisable.

What the cancer needs is more research, Hines said.

"People are aware of breast cancer because they are pretty and men support research into breast cancer," Hines said.

She is not suggesting that breast cancer is ignored, but that the links between breast and other gynecologic cancers are explored more.

To that end, the sisters are having an auction through Arts on Fire, honoring their mother's accomplishments in art.

Harris was a painter who had one-person art shows in Denver, Colorado Springs and Montgomery, Ala. Her work is still in corporate collections and private collections across the United States.

"Her painting changed a lot after her diagnosis," Hines said. "This one, 'Storm Center' really shows what she was going through."

The sisters have had the auction for a few years as a plate auction. This year, any functional or artistic item can be donated from the store's stock, including fused glass work. Artists and fine crafters have donated felted handbags, oil and acrylic paintings and fashion canvas bags.

Photos of many items are at

Bids are accepted through Sept. 25 and the auction is Sept. 26.

In past years, the Dana Price-Fish Cancer Foundation and the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition have benefited from the sales. This year it is all for the coalition. To donate items call Hines or McCombs at 303-470-0530.


all photos by Robyn Lydick

ovarian 1 (mom, in b&w)

Elanor Pifer Harris in 1957, original handcolored photo by Nash Photography, lived most of her life in and around Littleton. Her entreprenurial daughters are having an auction in her honor.

ovarian 2 (plates)

Many crafty people have donated their glaze-your-own plates, vases and other items to Arts on Fire Studio's annual ovarian cancer auction.

ovarian 3 (yellow sub plate)

This plate already has a $100 bid.


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