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Stories of Inspiration

30 days of gratitude. 30 years of NOCC. 30 years old and diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

By November 12, 2021No Comments

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.

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Stages of Ovarian Cancer

Before ovarian cancer - healthy ovaries

Stage 1 - Cancer is confined to one or both ovaries

Stage 2 - Cancer spreads within the pelvic region

Stage 3 - Average stage of diagnoses is stage 3C; cancer spreads to other body parts within the abdomen

Stage 4 - Cancer spreads beyond the abdomen to other body parts


National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

Stages of Ovarian Cancer

Stage 1

The cancer is confined to the ovary or fallopian tube

1A - The cancer is confined to one ovary only

1B - The cancer is found on both ovaries

1C - One or both ovaries are found with cancer cells spilling out from the ovaries

1C1 - Accidental rupture of the capsule by the surgeon during surgery

1C2 - Rupture of the capsule occurred before surgery

1C3 - Cancer cells are found in the fluid of the pelvis/abdomen

Stage 2

Growth of the cancer involves one or both ovaries with pelvic extension

2A - Extension of cancer to fallopian tubes or uterus

2B - Extension of cancer to other pelvic organs

Stage 3

Growth of the cancer involves one or both ovaries, and the cancer has spread beyond the pelvis

3A - Microscopic cancer cells found in upper abdomen or lymph nodes

3B - Visible tumor found in upper abdomen less than 2cm in size

3C - Visible tumor found in upper abdomen greater than 2cm in size, including disease on the surface of liver or spleen

Stage 4

The cancer growth is widely spread throughout the body

4A - Cancer is found in the fluid around lung

4B - Cancer is found inside the lungs, liver or spleen

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

30 Years of Courage


NOCC begins as a grassroots organization founded by advocates and survivors in Boca Raton, Florida


NOCC incorporates as the country’s first national organization providing awareness and education about ovarian cancer.


The first national ovarian cancer information hotline is established (1-888-OVARIAN), now averaging 10,000 calls each year.


NOCC proclaims a week in September “National Ovarian Cancer Week,” with a declaration from President Clinton. “Walk for a Whisper” 5K Walk/Run is initiated.


NOCC and the ovarian community proclaim September as “National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.”


The organization produces television PSA about early detection and distributes to 30 states.

2003 received the Award from OncoLink, the first online cancer resource founded by University of Pennsylvania cancer specialists.

NOCC receives the National Points of Light award in celebration of the success and impact volunteers have made in their communities.


NOCC launches “Body Image/Body Essence” art exhibit by sculptor John Magnan as a tribute to his wife’s journey with ovarian cancer.


NOCC launches the “Break the Silence” national education campaign.


The “Break the Silence” campaign reaches 100M impressions.

NOCC helps launch the first consensus on ovarian cancer symptoms.


NOCC moves its principal place of operation and state of incorporation/registration from Boca Raton, Florida to Dallas, Texas.

NOCC advocates help to double Department of Defense funding for ovarian cancer research to $20M per year.


“Newly Diagnosed Patient Kit” is launched. DVD resource is made available in Spanish and Mandarin; 450,000+ pieces of literature are distributed nationwide.


The Faces of Hope® program and term “Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer” are initiated. 

Annual fundraising events are branded “Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer®.”


NOCC partners with The Dr. Oz Show to create his Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer® campaign.

Over 1200 newly diagnosed women receive NOCC’s TEAL PACKET®

The “Ann Schreiber Ovarian Cancer Research Training Program of Excellence: A study by Dr. Ruth Perets” is supported by NOCC with a $50,000 contribution.


NOCC supports quality of life research with the GOG 0225, LIvES Study, which is ongoing and conducted by the University of Arizona Cancer Center.


More than 4,000 Faces of Hope TEAL totes are distributed.


More than 575,000 pieces of education and awareness literature are distributed nationally.

NOCC affirms its commitment to research with the newest  initiative, collaborating with Stand Up to Cancer, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund to support the “Ovarian Cancer Dream Team.”

NOCC is featured in the highly coveted showcase window at 10 Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan.


NOCC reaches its milestone 25th anniversary.

NOCC becomes an official charity partner for the New York Marathon and launches its first platform for endurance enthusiasts across the U.S - Team Teal®.


Rejuvenate, the first event of its kind, is introduced by NOCC for survivors as a retreat experience centered around the mind, body and spirit; it later expands to a national series.

Not Knowing is Killing Us is launched as a hard-hitting national awareness campaign. 


NOCC's signature Run/Walk Series is rebranded and Together in Teal® Ending Ovarian Cancer is brought to life in communities across the nation.  


Team Teal®, NOCC's endurance platform, expands internationally with participants in Greece and Canada.  

Together in Teal® Ending Ovarian Cancer is hosted at New York City's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a national historic landmark.


In response to the pandemic, NOCC introduces programming offering relief to women and their caregivers including home meal delivery, Comfort for the Soul, and online professional counseling through Comfort the Mind.  

Teal Hearts Network, a series of regional survivor support groups, commences in a virtual setting.

Together in Teal(R) hosts its first virtual experience, No Boundaries, and unites participants in 50 states and 9 countries.  

Signs and Symptoms

Ovarian cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling the need to urinate urgently or often
  • Trouble eating or feeling full quickly
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Back pain
  • Upset stomach or heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or menstrual changes
  • Pain during sex