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Stories of Inspiration

Bonded By TEAL

By November 6, 2021No Comments

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

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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