Women with a Cause 2018: Beth Torina
Cause: Geaux Teal
In December 2009, LSU softball coach Beth Torina faced some shocking news: her mother, who seemed to be the picture of perfect health, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Her treatment was grueling but successful, starting with an immediate surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible followed by chemotherapy targeting two areas at MD Anderson in Orlando, Florida.
Torina was then coaching at Florida International University and remembers being startled to learn that the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer were too easily ignored as typical female aches and pains. The experience inspired her to spread awareness of ovarian cancer signs and symptoms, starting with the 20 players on her team in Florida. She organized a game day for her players to wear teal and promote awareness and, two years later in 2012, she brought that tradition to LSU. It was the catalyst for the formation of Geaux Teal.
Torina, ever the selfless promoter of teamwork, credits the success of Geaux Teal to the group of women who have built it alongside her.
“There’s a committee of women who run this foundation,” she explains. “It’s not just me. They’re survivors.”
Soon after that first LSU teal game, Torina received an email from a friend of Licia Chaney, whose daughter Brandi was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010 at age 29. Her cancer had been misdiagnosed for six months and spread throughout her body. Aggressive treatments (complete hysterectomy, nine chemo treatments, bowel blockage surgery,
15 radiation treatments, and brain surgery to remove a tumor) were unsuccessful and she died. During her struggle, she urged her mother to get the word out about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer.
After attending that first game, Chaney and her friend collaborated with Torina to form a foundation to start Geaux Teal with an awareness walk on LSU’s campus before a softball game. The event has grown over the past six years from about 200 walkers to roughly 1,000 in 2018 and last year raised $75,000. The committee uses this money not only to raise awareness and fund research; it also provides grants for ovarian cancer patients currently in treatment as well as survivors requiring customized wellness assistance from a team of registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, physical therapy assistants and wellness coaches.
Torina—the mother of three daughters, Taryn (5), Tatum (4) and Tenley (3)—hopes that spreading the word about signs and symptoms to a younger generation, especially college athletes, will have a lasting impact. And she encourages women to be proactive in their personal health.
“When you’re in the doctor’s office, ask for a CT scan or ultrasound,” says Torina. “Be your own advocate.”
What do you love about the volunteer efforts that you do?
Ultimately, I thought I was going to change people, try to make a dent. But it’s really changed me. It’s an inspiration. It’s changed my heart and my life. It’s inspired me to be better on a daily basis.
What is something we don’t know about your cause?
This disease is not as silent as most people think it is. The symptoms are vague, do not always occur in the pelvis, and frequently masquerade as a gastrointestinal disorder. They tend to be persistent and represent a change from normal. Symptoms include bloating that is persistent, eating less and feeling fuller, abdominal pain, and trouble with your bladder.