The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 13, 2014

MSSU Zumbathon to benefit scholarship; annual assistance goes to cancer-affected students

There was a time once when Charlotte Hopper’s life was dictated by pain, diagnoses and treatments.

But not now. Hopper, a technical writer for Leggett & Platt Inc. and an English instructor at Missouri Southern State University, will participate today in the second MSSU Zumbathon, which is a fundraising event for the Charlotte Olinger Hopper Scholarship.

The scholarship is given annually to a cancer survivor or patient or the dependent of a cancer survivor or patient. Hopper, a survivor of ovarian cancer, and her husband, Randy, created it after going through their own tumultuous time period in which they wondered how they were going to make ends meet while the medical bills stacked up.

“We began to think if there are other people out there who are trying to figure out ways to pay for their children’s education or their own education, well, we want to help,” she said. “When you are fighting the cancer battle, you don’t need to worry about monetary things, so this is one way that we can give back and maybe ease a little bit of stress for people who are touched by cancer.”

Hopper’s own battle with cancer began in February 2012, when she noticed a pain in her side and back that didn’t recede after a few days. Thinking it might be a kidney stone, she made an appointment with her doctor.

A few CT scans and ultrasounds later, plus one visit to the emergency room because of pain and vomiting, Hopper ended up at a gynecologist’s office in Springfield. The gynecologist, she said, was alarmed by the mass in her abdomen and recommended surgery the following day; she agreed.

Hopper underwent a radical hysterectomy in a lengthy procedure that kept her sedated for most of the day. When she awoke late that night, her husband broke the news: She had been diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.

“My first thought that I could remember was, ‘My daughter was 17; I want to see her graduate from high school,’” she said. “Other than that, you just learn to deal.”

Hopper went through six rounds of chemotherapy beginning in April 2012. She lost her hair, which was difficult to cope with, but she otherwise dealt with the treatment “wonderfully well.” She was told in October 2012 that she was done with treatment.

“There are no signs of cancer in my body now,” she said.

Doctors are watching Hopper closely to ensure that she remains healthy, but she said she feels great on most days. She credits her husband with helping her remain active; in fact, the day after Thanksgiving 2013, she went to Nashville to visit her grandchildren, jump out of a plane and get a tattoo.

“I’ve never stopped going, never stopped doing,” she said. “We find what our next dream is, and we go after it.”

If you go

THE SECOND MSSU ZUMBATHON will be staged from 6 to 9 p.m. today at Beimdiek Recreation Center inside Billingsly Student Center at Missouri Southern State University. Admission is $15; there will be door prizes and raffle items. Proceeds will benefit the Charlotte Olinger Hopper Scholarship and the Gynecological Cancers Alliance, a Springfield-based organization that provides education, resources and support to women affected by gynecological cancers.

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