You don’t forget that time in your life when your world shifts, stands still, and you experience emotions and feelings that words could never fully capture. You are waiting, wondering, healing, fighting, exhausted, and alone. Your mind becomes imprisoned with doubt, decisions, and what-ifs. Your body changes, you don’t recognize yourself in the mirror, you feel incredibly different. You worry….about everything. Your relationships get stronger,….. or fall apart. Your circle tightens,…… or changes members. You feel lost.
Thankfully, my friends and family noticed this shift in my character, mind, and soul….and took me to a NOCC ovarian cancer walk/run to break the silence in Philadelphia, PA, after my diagnosis. If I am being honest, I was dreading the whole thing. I was fully engaged in my “presuffering” thinking. I would be too tired, or my baby would be fussy in his stroller, or I just wouldn’t fit in….ugh. Why are they taking me here……I secretly wished I could stay home….
I hate being wrong. I was very wrong. For the first time in what seemed like years, I felt strong, determined, and inspired. I met other women and families along my walk and formed this crazy instant connection. We didn’t EVEN have to exchange words. It was so incredibly powerful. This was when I knew I needed to be involved in the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition.
The NOCC created a movement within my core. I wanted to surround myself with this circle, learn from them, be supported by those that “get it,” and utilize their resources to find my way back to me, yes – a new version of me, but nonetheless – a better me, physically, psychologically & spiritually. So I began to connect, network and volunteer. I wanted to give back and knew if I could just give an ounce of what I gained at that first NOCC event, a similar ripple effect might be felt by another “previous me.”
Additional opportunities came along to serve, advocate and share my story in hopes others would be inspired to share theirs. This simply fed my soul. Fast forward to today, the NOCC has implemented programs I once dreamed of moons ago. Free healthy meals for survivors in treatment and their hard-working caregivers, free counseling, free support networks, free educational resources, and most recently, a drive and determination to provide health equity through NOCC’s financial assistance program so that no woman is disadvantaged to accessing treatment. THIS is just the beginning…
I am honored to share such sacred ground with NOCC, its mission, leaders, staff, volunteers, and participants. I am hopeful in the next 30 years; no woman will lose her life to ovarian cancer. But, for now, this woman, diagnosed at the age of 30, is grateful for how wrong she was many years ago. I will continue to volunteer, serve and extend my gratitude for NOCC and the incredible teal tribe it offered me way beyond 30 days.
Meredith R. Mitstifer, Psy.D
Dr. Mitsifer is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Prior to her 13 years with the Bureau, she was a psychologist for the Arizona Department of Corrections Death Row & Special Management Units. Meredith was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 30 when she was four months pregnant. This year she celebrates 18 years of survivorship with her son. Meredith serves as NOCC’s Chairman of the Board of Directors and has since 2018. She has presented and published research on perceived partner adaptation during a cancer diagnosis. She is a public speaker on vicarious trauma, transformational leadership, and living both authentically and fearlessly after an ovarian cancer diagnosis. Meredith enjoys traveling with her son as they raise their voices together against this disease that whispers.