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30 Years of TEAL – Stories of Inspiration Spotlights – Maria Gonzales

By December 10, 2021December 12th, 2021No Comments

As a five-time ovarian cancer survivor and active member of the San Antonio NOCC community, Maria Gonzales and her story of inspiration have resonated with so many. In August of 2020, she shared her experience as a long-time survivor and her passion for supporting survivors along the way. We caught up with Maria to see how she has been since writing her original post and her advice for those newly diagnosed.

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC): You share in your original piece that you are a five-time ovarian cancer survivor! How has your health been since writing your blog post?

Maria Gonzales (MG): Since my last post on NOCC, I have been doing well. Since April 2019, I have been on maintenance treatment Avastin. I exceeded the number of treatments recommended, and I was experiencing severe headaches, so my GYN-oncologist suggested I stop the treatment. I stopped Avastin around August of 2021. I started Zejula, a PARP inhibitor, as maintenance in October. I have had side effects and a few concerns, but I will continue with taking it as of now. I am physically active, working out at least four times a week, working full time as a school counselor, and enjoying life.   

NOCC: What piece of advice would you give to yourself when your blog was written? Is there anything you would share with her?

MG: I would tell her that she will have her ups and downs. The anxiety of cancer returning will never go away, but she will learn how to cope with it better. Continue planning for the future because she has a future. I am proud of HER for not giving up. People love her, and she is making a difference by sharing her story. I love every part of her, even with flaws and imperfections. 

NOCC: What advice do you have for newly diagnosed individuals?

MG: For any newly diagnosed patient, this will be a crazy journey. Sometimes you will just go through the motions of doctor’s appointments, treatments, surgeries, and many unknowns. Sometimes you will just want to quit. It is ok to cry and vent, but don’t stay in the dark place for a long time. This is part of grieving yourself. If you feel you are mentally in a dark place, ask for help. Mental well-being is just as important as physical. Make sure you listen to your body; if you are unsure of pain, discomfort, or if something is “normal,” talk to your medical team. You have to be your biggest advocate and cheerleader. However, it is ok to ask for help.

If you need laundry taken care of or things around the house done, ask for help from your family or friends. Many times they feel helpless and would be more than willing to help. You are surrounded by many ovarian cancer survivors, so reach out to them. Remember, you are not a statistic; you are YOU. Take one day at a time; you got this.    

Maria Gonzales

Maria Gonzales is a 13-year ovarian cancer Survivor Stage 3C. She has been married for 15 years and has two chihuahuas. She has been in education for 24 years. She has transitioned from being a math teacher to a middle school counselor. Maria loves spending quality time with her family and friends. Nothing brings her more joy than being with her nieces and nephews. Faith and hope keep her positive. Maria was born and raised in El Paso, Texas but resides in San Antonio, Texas. You can read her original August 2020 blog post here.

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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

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition

30 Years of Courage

1991   

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

 1995   

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

1996   

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

1998   

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.

2000   

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

2002

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

2003

Ovarian.org received the Oncolink.com 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.

2004

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

2006

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

2007

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

NOCC helps launch the first consensus on ovarian cancer symptoms.

2008

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.

2009

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

2010

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®.”

2011

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.

2012

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

2013

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

2014

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.

2016

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®.

2017

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. 

2018  

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

2019

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.

2020

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.  

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

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