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30 Years of TEAL – Stories of Inspiration Spotlights – Michael Burns

By December 26, 2021No Comments

Father of an ovarian cancer survivor and Great Lakes NOCC volunteer Michael Burns shared his experience supporting his young daughter Kirsten in his original blog post. Michael’s post resonated with many in the TEAL community, so we are excited to catch up with him and hear more about how Kirsten and the entire Burns family are doing. 

National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC): How has Kirsten’s health been since your original piece?

Michael Burns (MB): Kirsten continues to have periodic testing and doctor visits. We have been fortunate that all continues to go well.

NOCC: You share in your story that you had to make “quick, semi-informed critical decisions” when deciding on the next steps for Kirsten’s health. In retrospect, what advice would you give to parents who may be facing a similar situation?

MB: Through our involvement in the NOCC, I see where others that have been through the process have had interactions with people in various stages of treatments. It would have been nice to have others to talk to about their experiences and expectations. The doctors did an outstanding job of providing information and answering our questions. It was such a shock to receive the initial news, and we really struggled even to have a base for questions. The internet has so much information that it is sometimes overwhelming to get quick, clear information.

It would have helped to know support organizations such as NOCC were available when we received the initial diagnosis. It may have been comforting to hear from someone else and maybe made us more confident in the quick decision-making.

NOCC: You mention “hopefully through the involvement of NOCC and other publications” that you can help spread awareness of ovarian cancer to support early detection. How has your involvement with NOCC supported this goal for you and your family?

MB: Our family has been very active in two areas relative to the NOCC and raising awareness. We work to expand team participation each year through our walk/run team, “Kirsten’s Krew,” we work to expand team participation each year. We look forward to getting back together in person this year to really build the team feeling again. Although many of our family and friends were aware of Kirsten’s history, it is a good annual reminder to all of them. As our team members bring new friends to the team, it also increases their awareness.

The local Teal Taps program has allowed us to interact with people in a casual restaurant or brewery setting. By bringing other friends to the event and interacting with new people at the location, it raises awareness. As you interact with people, they are always very surprised when they hear Kirsten’s story and others impacted at such a young age. It is also common to hear other stories from patrons about how Ovarian Cancer has affected their family too.

Michael Burns

Mike Burns is a husband and father of 3 daughters living in Pittsburgh. The entire Burns family continues to be active in NOCC Pittsburgh events including the walk/run and Teal Taps program. You can read his original blog post here.

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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