Lauren Wollman was just 16 years old when she was diagnosed with a genetic condition—one that would eventually lead to her diagnosis of stage one ovarian cancer. Wollman, who was just starting her college application process, was about to embark on a journey that would include many doctors’ appointments and operations, but would eventually lead her home to Alpha Sigma Tau at Monmouth University.
Wollman explained that at the time of her diagnosis, she was experiencing symptoms comparable to those of premenstrual syndrome, commonly known as PMS. Wollman shared that some of the common symptoms associated with ovarian cancer are bloating, frequent urination, feeling satiated quickly, and spotting. She said, “Sometimes that’s all just stuff that happens naturally when you are going through a cycle.”
While Wollman was going through the motions of treating her condition, she was also beginning to apply to colleges. She said, “It was a bit of a struggle…all my doctors when I was applying to college were like, ‘don’t let this hold you back from where you really want to go.”
Wollman took the advice of her doctors. She packed her bags and left her hometown of Oceanport, NJ for the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania; approximately 153 miles away from her family and doctors. Wollman began her freshman year as a biology student with aspirations of working in the field of oncology and helping cancer patients similar to herself.
However, her time at the University of Scranton was short-lived. “I was so far away from my home and my resources that I didn’t do well, so after my first semester I wanted to transfer to Monmouth.”
Wollman returned home to New Jersey and enrolled in Brookdale Community College to boost her GPA and prepare for her transfer to Monmouth, which happened in January of 2020. It was at that time Wollman decided to change her field of study to communication.
Wollman explained, “I felt that [oncology] was too close to home, and I was having too hard of a time separating myself from what I was studying… I was like, ‘I need to change it up’ and still be involved in the health and wellness community and help women who have struggled with something similar to me in a different way and in a different aspect by sharing their stories rather than being directly involved in helping [them], because it was just too much for me to actually go through that again.”
After changing her field of study, Wollman participated in Panhellenic recruitment as a way to make connections and meet new people. It was at that time she was introduced to the sisters of Alpha Sigma Tau’s Beta Omega chapter. She fell in love with the organization largely due to its national philanthropic affiliation with the Women’s Wellness Initiative.
Samantha DeSantis currently serves as the Beta Omega chapter’s philanthropy chair. She explained that through the organization’s partnership with the Initiative, chapters are able to focus on health issues that impact women while simultaneously enriching their lives. DeSantis said, “I can say the women in our chapter really care about one another and women all over. We want to make sure that everyone is always doing okay and have the help to be as successful as we possibly can.”
Wollman recalled the way their philanthropy struck a chord with her because of her personal struggles with cancer. She explained that the sisters’ passion for women’s wellness shines not just through their fundraising efforts, but also in the ways they have supported her since she became a member.
Wollman gushed about her Alpha Sigma Tau family tree and how they have been supportive and understanding. She explained that since she now needs to go to annual doctor’s visits, those days are usually filled with feelings of anxiety. She said, “They are always texting me and supporting me and that’s been a huge help. All of the girls in our organization would drop anything and listen to you…that’s what’s been super great about this organization.”
This year, several sisters from the chapter were able to participate alongside Wollman, who now serves as the chapter’s Vice President of Operations, in the Kaleidoscope of Hope walk in Bradley Beach on Saturday, Sept. 25. She said, “All of the proceeds go to ovarian research and trying to find a way to test for it without the test being such an invasive surgery.”
Wollman is now in remission from ovarian cancer and will be graduating this January with a degree in communication with a concentration in media studies. She said that post-graduation, she wants to work in the health and wellness industry by doing both personal training and public relations for Our Team Fitness in Oceanport, where she currently works.
She shared that ultimately, she would love to open a gym geared towards women who have cancer and help them start their fitness journey after falling ill. Until then, Wollman will remain an advocate for women’s health and encourage women to not feel afraid to speak up about their reproductive health.