As CEO, I am often asked, “How did you become involved with NOCC, and do you have a personal connection with ovarian cancer?” Naturally, one would assume that if you dedicate your days to advocating for a particular cause, you must have a personal tie. For me, my passion for this line of work began over 20 years ago when I was hired by an organization committed to women’s health and patient advocacy. Little did I know back then that this would be so much more than a job. The initial spark would ignite a career that would inspire me and fill my cup each and every day.
After many years of service, I made a bold move to leave my world submerged in pink and joined the NOCC team. I instantly fell in love with the teal community. You often hear people say how rewarding it is to love what you do, but it’s even more rewarding when you love who you do it for.
There is something so special about this union of survivors, caregivers, and families – they are fighters – they look cancer in the face and say, NOT TODAY! How can you not admire that kind of courage and grit?
Even still, there are days when the loss is unbearable; your heart aches hearing news from loved ones that their wife, mother, sister, angel has passed. You instantly recall that intimate moment they touched your life, and you go through your list of “if onlys.” These, however, are the days that fuel us to do more and be better.
In cause-related work, your top priority is always to serve and support the impacted, so my on-the-job training came directly from the source. As I traveled through our teal nation, I listened intently to stories of bravery from those who have had to face this cruel and vicious cancer. Their journeys from diagnosis through treatment and beyond still echo. I know that you can never really understand someone’s plight – after all, everyone has unique circumstances that guide their path – however, the common thread in their stories is what has led me to one very important conclusion – the power of human connection is undeniable.
Since its inception, NOCC has been known for its legacy programs that serve as valuable resources to those living with ovarian cancer -Faces of Hope, Cancer Connect, Teal Hearts support groups – to name a few. The similarity woven into each of these programs is about connecting those with shared experiences – knowing without a doubt that you are not alone in your journey.
Looking back at my time with this mighty organization, introducing a meal delivery program at the onset of a pandemic will always be a memorable moment for me in NOCC’s history. For the first time, isolation seemed imminent, and we would have to find new ways to coalesce…AND WE DID. Offering these services felt relevant, timely, and as if this level of support could relieve some of the stress and burden associated with the new world we were now living in. In the end, it taught us that even at great distances, we could still be magically connected.
But as I reminiscence, my favorite memories are witnessing a sea of teal coming together, everywhere as one, whether sharing time face to face or in spirit, it is simply electric to witness. A crowd of good doers bonded by one mission is a brilliant force to be reckoned with, and it can bring forth positive change and limitless hope for so many.
Even with my love and admiration for all things teal, I still find myself outraged by the stories of misdiagnosis, stunned by disheartening statistics, and frustrated with the lack of general awareness, especially when compared to, let’s say, breast cancer. This cancer needs a platform, an army of advocates. Over the last 30 years, NOCC has been building that teal army through connecting and empowering our nation from coast to coast to raise our voices. It is now time for us to turn our powerful connection and diligent awareness into action as we look to a bright future where no woman ever loses her life to ovarian cancer.
Melissa Aucoin, CEO
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition