HERAtage  :  Sean

Sean Patrick

Founder – HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation
1951 – 2009

On January 20th, 2009, our dear friend, partner, sister and mentor Sean Patrick succumbed to ovarian cancer after a twelve year battle.  She fought the disease personally, as well as for all women. Sean travelled nationwide to seek the best care, latest treatments and most progressive ovarian cancer research. It was her wish to share her knowledge and experience to improve the lives of other women afflicted with this disease.  However, her legacy reaches far beyond those impacted by ovarian cancer, validated by the thousands of women who have been touched by her compassion, selfless commitment and endless dedication to change.

In 1990 this avid skier, mountain biker and hiker, learned to rock climb – a sport that encompasses all that Sean loved in life, and which she used as a metaphor to inspire us to go beyond our comfort zone, push ourselves and reset the boundaries.  Rock climbing encompasses problem solving, taking calculated risks and physical and mental challenges, which outdoor industry women face on a daily basis.  Sean was fond of saying “When you’re out there on a ledge and there’s a storm rolling in, you can’t just cut the line. You have to keep on going and fighting.”

Seven years after clipping her first biner, at age 46, Sean reached an advanced level in climbing, 5.12a.  At the same time, she faced the greatest test of her life: a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.  During her recovery from surgery she decided to use her passion for the outdoors and resolve the lack of awareness, information, and funding for ovarian cancer by creating the HERA Women’s Cancer Foundation, forming Partners in Action and launching the popular HERA Climb4LifeSM three-city fundraising event series.

Sitting on a half-dozen boards working on cancer-related issues, Sean met dozens of women suffering from ovarian cancer and taught herself everything she could about the disease. “I had a lot of time to think,” she said. “I became interested in what were the political, social and funding obstacles to coming up with better testing for the disease and more effective treatments – you know, those middle of the night rants that take place in a hospital room. I decided we needed to frame the dialogue as a political and social problem versus a health/medical problem. I wanted to understand what were the obstacles to a timely access and quality care. I guess part of the reason I got involved was a way of taking back control of my life.”

In the whirlwind that became her life as an advocate for women, Sean passes on a valuable lesson she learned: “We all have the power within us to change the world in a positive way”, said Sean.  It just takes one idea, one individual, one scientist, one company or one community to make a difference in the world. That’s the power of one.”

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