Skip to main content
FeaturedStories of Inspiration

Keeping a Positive Outlook

By May 14, 2021June 14th, 2021No Comments

Our 13-year-old daughter, Kirsten, was living the normal life of a seventh-grade student. Before an annual doctor visit, she asked her mother if she should mention that her menstrual cycle stopped for about six months. Our pediatrician was concerned and ordered several tests. Several experts recognized an increase in her hormone level based on the test results, but it seemed everyone was unclear of the exact cause. She received advice to change her diet, take vitamins, increase exercise, etc. After many different doctor visits, blood tests, and an ultrasound, an MRI was finally done. Having had so many tests with inclusive results, we did not have high expectations of any new theories.

I received the surprising call on a Friday morning at work from Kirsten’s pediatrician that they had found the issue. Based on the MRI and other test results, she was diagnosed with a Sertoli-Leydig Cell Tumor in her left ovary. This was very rare. The pediatrician gave me the name of a gynecologic oncologist at the local hospital. I spent the entire morning on the phone talking to doctors and scheduling appointments. Between the shock of the news, talking to doctors, and scheduling appointments, before I knew it was the end of the workday. I left work early to go home and give Kirsten the news.

As a parent, this is such a very difficult situation. You always want to protect your children from difficult situations and help them get through challenges. During our discussion, I really felt the extreme weight of the situation. Not only that, we had to deal with the cancer diagnosis, but realizing that this 13-year-old is completely reliant and trusting of what you are telling her. We made quick, semi-informed, critical decisions relating to her health. Being in a completely new situation, you are trying to get as much information from doctors, reading and researching in a very short amount of time. As a parent in this situation, you feel completely powerless. You are relying completely on the doctors and medical caregivers to resolve the issue.

After meeting with a gynecologic oncologist and a gynecologic surgeon, we scheduled the surgery. I was surprised by the direct and honest conversations between the doctors and our daughter. I think as parents, we all try to shelter our children from harsh news, but the doctors were very open and honest in speaking directly to us (including Kirsten in all conversations). The optimism and professionalism they showed really gave us all confidence that we were moving in the right direction.
My daughter impressed us all with her positive approach to the situation. Instead of dwelling on the “Why me?” that could easily happen in a unique situation, she often talked about being thankful for the early detection, and let’s get this behind us. I think that a positive attitude was critical to get through the situation successfully.

As difficult as it was, during the surgery and recovery period, it allowed me to spend significant one-on-one time with my daughter. My wife was instrumental in the support too. The outpouring of support from family and friends was overwhelming. This overall support continued to reinforce the positive feeling during the recovery.
Having access to more information could have been the most significant way our situation could have improved. It might have helped us feel more informed if we could speak with people who have gone through a similar experience. We were challenged with moving at a fast pace in the treatment versus being very deliberate to gather as much information as possible. Hopefully, through our involvement in the NOCC and these types of publications, we could be a resource for someone else facing this type of news.

As Kirsten is getting ready to take the next step in life by going off to college, I look back on the experience with some key observations. As you are faced with a situation that is especially challenging, keeping a positive outlook is critical. Leaning on the support of family and friends really helps keep spirits high. As a person providing support, your constant encouragement really does make a difference.

Mike 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.

Make a donation

Contact us

Find a support group

Close Menu

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