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Stories of Inspiration

My Dog urged me to listen to my body

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

After suffering from severe bloating, bowel issues, frequent urination, and a few other symptoms I started consulting the doctors. I was going to the doctor for what I thought were digestive issues. My doctor told me it was gas. I saw another doctor. After feeling my belly which has a hard spot, I was referred to a gastroenterologist. I knew something was wrong.

My Doberman Iso helped push me to see an OBGYN. I would go into the bathroom and she would go with me. Of course, we have zero privacy.  She would always sniff us when we pee.  She started to sniff when I pee then make eye contact. Sniff again and make eye contact.  I just thought she wanted something.  It was that type of stare.  She was trying to tell me something.

January 12, 2017, After a couple of weeks of Iso doing this, I went to my OBGYN for an annual.  I was told by my previous ob-gyn that I was so healthy I didn’t need to go but every 3 years.  So I was 3 years and some odd months past my last pap.  We relocated to Arizona a little over a year prior. I found a new ob-gyn and scheduled an appointment.  During my appointment, I talked to her about all my digestive issues and mentioned my dog being weird with me.  She decided to do an internal ultrasound.  She said, “I think I found your problem”. As the ob-gyn and her assistant were watching the monitor I knew something was wrong. The look on her assistant’s face was clear that it was not normal. There is was a 13cm tumor. I did a CA125 Blood test prior to leaving. I was then scheduled for a CT scan. I kept it together until I got outside. I cried all the way home and I just couldn’t call my family. I thought about my life and the reasons I wasn’t ready to die.  Scared and confused, I was told they weren’t sure if it was cancer.  I broke the news to my family when I got home.

My results came back. I quickly went to see an oncologist. My appointment was on a Friday and my surgery was scheduled for the following Monday. There was not a lot of time to actually process anything. What we knew was that my left ovary had a 13cm tumor that was hanging on my right side and by surgery day it had attached itself to my pelvis. Even until the day of my surgery my team of doctors wasn’t sure if it was cancer.  I was 40 years old so the chances of me having ovarian cancer were 4.3%.

February 6, 2017, came way too fast. I signed off on 2 surgeries.

1-Ovary tube and tumor removal.

2- Once inside they would send off a part of the tumor for testing. They said it only takes about 15 Minutes. If it came back as cancer a radical hysterectomy and debulking would happen.

The next thing I know I’m awake and I’m being told I have cancer.  I remember calmly responding “ok”.  I couldn’t process it I guess.  The next morning my doctors came in asking how I’m feeling and if I remember talking to them the night before.  I said “yes”.  Again calmly.  They asked if I needed them to call the hospital therapist so I could talk to them.  I declined.  Saying “I’m ok”.  Again I couldn’t quite comprehend the fact that I had cancer.  I was so calm they were concerned.  I like to say I went onto autopilot. My autopilot lasted a year. The cancer was confined to the ovary. However, my tumor ruptured during surgery, so I was scheduled for chemotherapy.

Chemo didn’t treat me well. I was in bed for a week. I thought a lot during this time. I also learned that even though I said I couldn’t do it again, I did. My will to live was stronger than the temporary feeling of being on death’s doorstep.  My last chemo was one of the best days of my life. I was scheduled for a CT scan to make sure my treatment was working.

May 13, 2017 – my scan showed a nodule on my lung – not the news I wanted to hear.  On May 18, 2017, I was then scheduled for a lung biopsy. I was wide awake and scared as hell.  Keeping a brave face, my lung biopsy was complete.


Let’s fast forward to today.  Let’s focus on how I feel about my journey.  You see cancer doesn’t mean you become a different person.  Although it changes you,  I am still me.

The person I was always destined to be.

~I’m stubborn.

~I’m not a quitter.

~ I’m not competitive.

~ When I love,  I love with every ounce of my being.

~I’m funny, although that’s what people say.

~I don’t like being told what to do.

~I love animals more than I can convey.

~I’m an introverted extrovert (although no one believes me).

~I have so much empathy I cry for others.

I’m sure I’m missing some.  My point is all those things are who I am.  What I didn’t understand was that those things wouldn’t change.  After surgery and during my treatments I would cry.  “I don’t want this to change who I am”. I was terrified of being changed.  I was so afraid of becoming angry and bitter and victimizing myself.   I tried so hard every single minute of every single day to focus on the now.  I still didn’t quite comprehend that I had cancer. I knew I had it but mentally I was so focused on surviving treatments just making it through the day.  I don’t think it was until recently I stopped saying “Can you believe I have/had cancer”?  2017 was the best and worst year of my life.

So you see, I am not cancer.

I am me.

I am a cancer survivor.

Victoria Rak

I’ve since then started a Bath Body brand that focuses on healthy clean products. Out of the darkness and into the light, Cheekiesoaps was born.

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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