Jane E. Werner gave to many causes during her life, but one was especially personal: ovarian cancer. Her daughter, Ann Werner, survived advanced ovarian cancer after treatment at the OHSU Center for Women’s Health.
Deeply grateful, Werner generously supported OHSU research on ovarian cancer, then created the Jane Werner Ovarian Cancer Fund at the OHSU Foundation to help patients in need.
"She cared deeply for her community and helping those who were less fortunate,” Ann Werner said. “She always thought having a positive attitude and being physically active helped any problem."
Jane Werner was born in Olean, New York. She majored in economics and lettered in three sports at Smith College, graduating in 1941. While working at IBM in Washington, D.C., during World War II, she began corresponding with a young Army lieutenant from Iowa. She and Clem Warner married a year later.
After the war, the Werners moved to Davenport, Iowa, and raised three children, Susan, Cal and Ann. Jane Werner, a strong believer in education, worked to improve public schools. Later, she and Clem endowed college scholarships at five Iowa high schools.
Jane Werner also endowed scholarships at Smith College and at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Fort Myers, Florida, where she volunteered for 25 years. In addition, she made major gifts to organizations devoted to protecting the environment, advancing medical research, and helping the needy. She died in 2012 in Fort Myers at age 92.
Ann Werner's story
Ann Werner was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer in 2003. Suddenly, she feared, her life would be cut short amid a haze of medical procedures.
“Some say that ovarian cancer is a silent killer because women don’t feel symptoms until the cancer is advanced,” she said. “Way too frequently, women disregard their symptoms of bloating, change in bowel habits and discomfort until the symptoms have persisted for a long time.”
She considered herself lucky, though, to be at OHSU. She was cared for by Dr. Tanja Pejovic, a gynecologic oncologist (a doctor/surgeon who treats women’s reproductive cancers), and Dr. Brett Sheppard, a gastrointestinal surgeon. After surgery, Dr. Pejovic enrolled Werner in a chemotherapy clinical trial.
“As Jimmy Buffett says about life, ‘Some of it is magic, and some of it is tragic,’” Werner said. “Let’s seek the magic … and let’s reduce the tragic by paying attention to our bodies and choosing the best medical care when we need it.”
Helping other women
Jane Werner showed gratitude for her daughter’s care by supporting Dr. Pejovic’s research on ovarian cancer. She also began contributing to help needy ovarian cancer patients, ultimately leaving money in her will to create the Jane Werner Ovarian Cancer Fund.
"Many women are exhausted and fearful during treatment," Ann Werner said. "The fund was set up to help reduce the fear of 'How will I pay?' and make it easier for families to be together. People come from far away to get the best treatment at OHSU, and this fund helps them do that."
Grants from the fund often pay for transportation or lodging during treatment. They’ve also paid for needs such as helping a young mother buy school clothes for her 11-year-old son or enabling a 55-year-old woman to fix her car so she wouldn’t have to take the bus to chemotherapy appointments.
"Ovarian cancer is such a challenging disease,” said Karen Lindsey, a social worker at the Center for Women’s Health. “We are glad to have a grant that can help a patient's monetary worries. It's something positive at a time when much of the news she may be hearing is difficult.
“Sometimes people cry. Everyone is tremendously grateful.”