Vivian So was just 26 when she was faced with a frightening diagnosis.
In 2006, So noticed her body was changing and thought that she was just "getting fat." It prompted her to start doing sit ups to strengthen her core. However, one afternoon as she was exercising, So felt something unusual in her abdominal region - something seemed to shift.
"As I was doing sit ups, I felt something in my stomach area shift," So said. "I realized that that wasn't fat because fat doesn't shift."
After several appointments and tests, doctors discovered a cyst on one of her ovaries. They immediately scheduled a surgery at Ridge Meadows Hospital in Maple Ridge to scrape off all the dead cells in her ovaries.
A couple of months later, a doctor at the BC Cancer Agency, who was studying her case at the time, warned So that the cyst was cancerous and had to be taken out.
In January 2007, she had one of her ovaries removed.
"The concern that I had was not being able to have kids because I really love kids," said the now 32-year old Port Coquitlam resident. "But then I quickly realized that as long as I'm alive, that's good enough, I was pretty calm after that.
"I trusted my doctors to give me the best (treatment) that they could."
After two surgeries over a four-month period, So is proud to say she has been cancer-free for the past six years.
While she admits she was quite calm throughout the entire process, she credits her family and friends with their positive attitude that helped her throughout her ordeal over the past years.
Knowing what she knows now and what others are also facing inspired her to strip down to her underwear for last week's fundraiser. So was one of 1,035 participants in last weekend's BC Cancer Foundation's Underwear Affair.
The seventh annual event included a 10-kilometre race and five-kilometre walk through downtown Vancouver with participants clad in outrageous costumes, underwear and athletic attire.
"It changes me in some ways. After surviving, you pay more attention anytime you hear the word cancer, and that's exactly why I wanted to participate," said So.
"The doctors and nurses are so awesome and I want to give back to them. You know they love their job, they're so caring and I want to help them do their job the best they can."
She ran with her sister Karen in the five-kilometre race and together, managed to raise $1,650 for cancers "below the waist." It also raised crucial public awareness which goes a long way to help win those personal battles.
"I want to help make cancer history," she said. Approximately 48 per cent of newly diagnosed cancer cases in B.C. are those that occur below the waist, and if caught early, the chance of survivial increases significantly.
"The range of cancers that can develop below the waist is broad and the more public awareness that's out there, the greater opportunity we have to positively impact early detection and the research we conduct on those diseases," said Dr. Hagen Kennecke, a medical oncologist at the BC Cancer Agency.
According to So, the best way to catch the disease early is to listen to the signs from your body.
"Be aware of your health, if you feel like something is going wrong go to the doctor, don't be a doctor yourself," she said.
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