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WTOL team member raises donations, awareness for The Victory Center to help others with cancer

Digital Content Manager Victoria Dugger shares how she tackled her biggest assignment yet - ovarian cancer - and the importance of 'Over the Edge For Victory' event.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Imagine this: you're 16 stories in the air, looking down at The Plaza below you. You're hanging off the side of a building, fastened into a harness and anchored by ropes. 

There's no such thing as solid ground, not until you reach the bottom of your rappel. 

And yet, this challenge is easy as pie - because you've beaten cancer.

Victoria Dugger is the manager of our digital content team here at WTOL. 

The old adage goes: "the news never sleeps." News happens at all hours of the day and night. In many ways, the job is 24/7, 365. You learn pretty quickly to always expect the unexpected.

But nothing can prepare you for when the tables are turned and it's your doctor bringing you the latest breaking news. 

The who: You. 

The what: Cancer

The when: Now.

"I thought: I'm too busy to deal with this right now, I don't have time for cancer," Victoria said. "But cancer didn't care."

Victoria was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer in February 2019. 

OVER THE EDGE FOR VICTORY DONATION PAGE

Nothing can prepare you for that kind of headlining news. When Victoria found out she had stage one ovarian cancer, it was unexpected. When it comes to many types of cancer, this is the norm - not the exception.

"There's no screening test for ovarian cancer," she explained. "You kind of have to just listen to your body and if things start to seem kind of weird, you get things checked out, and you have to undergo surgery."

Victoria's surgery involved the removal of a large ovarian tumor and was followed by three rounds of chemotherapy. She lost her hair, but didn't lose her spirit. 

She approached her fight with the same "24/7" attitude she applies to her job at WTOL.

"For me it was just like, 'Okay, let's tackle this, let's go. I need to know what we're going to do and tell me now, because I'm approaching this like an assignment,'" Victoria said. 

When it comes to news, it's always best to have a game plan, especially when cancer is a lot of twists, turns and unknowns.

Victoria used social media as a scrapbook to document her journey, including insight during her hospital stays and chemo treatments.

Her scrapbook branched out across her Instagram account, "holy_tealedo"; a username that doubles as a play-on-words acknowledging the color teal that represents ovarian cancer. The pictorial journey features posts regarding facts about ovarian cancer and her personal experiences with the disease.

Of course, it wouldn't truly be a Victoria project without more than just a little of her levity and humor as well. 

Victoria "rang the bell" following her final chemo treatment on April 19, 2019.

Her daily social media posts were paired with a progress photo as her hair returned, from day 1 to day 366 post-chemo ("a whole leap year".) Her "survivor selfies" may have finished, but her mission to help others share that title of "survivor" is far from over. 

You can help.

Following her diagnosis, Victoria found what currently may be Toledo's "best-kept secret": The Victory Center. 

During her treatment for ovarian cancer, Victoria was a regular at The Victory Center. It was a place to unwind and take time for herself, while also finding comfort in the shared experiences of others. 

Now, a little over a year and a half since she rang that bell, Victoria hopes that more people find The Victory Center during their time of need, just like she did. 

"Over the Edge For Victory" is an annual charity event to support The Victory Center and put the "fun" in fundraiser.

The Victory Center relies solely on the generosity of the community and private funding. In past years, the "Over the Edge" event has raised more than $125,000. All donations stay local to provide services for men, women and children who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Victoria believes The Victory Center and the resources they provide are invaluable for everyone in the community.

"I don't want it to be Toledo's best-kept secret," Victoria said. "I want people to know, without a doubt, no matter what cancer they have, no matter how old or young they are - this program exists, and they totally can help people out."

The Victory Center offers a wide variety of support programs for local cancer patients, survivors and their families, free of charge. There's something for everyone.

"This is a resource I never thought I'd use," Victoria said. "You know, and you never know when you're going to need it."

The Victory Center's executive director, Dianne Barndt, detailed just a few of the offerings provided by the organization, which has served northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan since 1996. "We have counseling, we have things like aromatherapy and art therapy," Barndt said. 

An emphasis is placed on hope, health, healing and community. Cancer doesn't discriminate and the bond between those who receive a cancer diagnosis is a powerful one.

"We need to have organizations like this in our community to give people and families who've been through cancer hope, information, education and just relief," Victoria said. "And a community where they know they can go and be themselves and be around people who know exactly how they're feeling."

The 4th annual "Over the Edge For Victory" fundraiser is set for Aug. 27 and 28 at The Plaza in downtown Toledo.

If you're interested in registering for the challenge, click here. The first 85 individuals to raise a minimum of $1,000 will be able to participate in the rappelling experience. Spots are still available and there's still time to donate.

The Victory Center has two locations, one in Perrysburg and one in Toledo. For more information on their programs, services and support groups, check out their website.

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