"I had a scan done and there was a tumor the size of a coffee cup staring at us and that was it."
For Pauline Dance, a trip to the doctor in January 2019 sparked a significant change in her life after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and now she is hoping to encourage the city's women to take notice of potential symptoms and get checked if something does not feel right.
Mrs Dance said the process from diagnosis to operation "just happened so fast," going from a GP visit in Griffith in NSW's Riverina to the operating table within two months.
"I had symptoms that women put up with all the time," Mrs Dance said.
"You're just feeling bloated, your're feeling tired, loss of appetite, abdomen pains - just things that we put down to women's issues.
"I went along to my GP at the end of January he sent me directly to the specialist here in Griffith ... we were in hospital within two weeks of diagnosis."
Before her diagnosis, Mrs Dance had not heard of ovarian cancer - of which four women in Australia are diagnosed a day, three of whom are likely to die as a result.
"Ovarian cancer is a very hidden one because women's symptoms are the same as what they go through in life," Mrs Dance said.
"There's no early detection test like cervical cancer ... I just assumed my pap smear covered all cancers women had to worry about and that is very far from the truth."
Upon diagnosis, she did not initially look into the statistics behind the survival rate as she could not "concentrate on that journey you had to go on" but instead focused on getting through things step-by-step, supported by the strong support of the local community.
"Living in the city you get the healthcare but living in a community like Griffith you've got that community care around you," Mrs Dance said.
"I've taught here since 1977 and I've just had this whole community wrap around us and just knew they were there for us ... [some of] my greatest supports has been the gym, pilates - I do a mindfulness training ... and again Covid has stopped access for those things for me so I've just had to swing things around and make sure I go for walks."
After Mrs Dance's operation to remove the cancer, she went through six rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer returned four months after her treatment initially ended.
"The everyday treatment that people had wasn't working for me and we had to change it," Mrs Dance said.
"Thankfully I'm on a monthly chemo now that is working so all we can do is touch wood and hope it's going to be long term.
"We went to a specialist in Sydney a month ago and he was quite surprised how well it's going for me and he was very positive that it should be able to be continued and we will put wet weather plans in place when we need to ... we hadn't had that sort of option thrown to us before."
I just assumed my pap smear covered all cancers women had to worry about and that is very far from the truth.Pauline Dance
Mrs Dance said while she was "lucky" to be in a financially safe position and retired - allowing her and her husband Jeff to focus solely on treatment - others may not be in the same situation.
"When we had the operation we flew to Sydney ... being in a regional place you just take whatever flight you're given, pay whatever cost you've had to," Mrs Dance said.
"We just wanted to get it done and we didn't even consider the cost ... I feel for women who can't afford to do that and I feel for women who aren't in the private system - if I was a public patient I was told it was anything from 6-10 weeks [before getting onto the operating table].
"If you were a person that is still working or you've got a family you're still trying to get through little kids, teenagers, whatever - it would be awful. We're both retired, we can focus on this, we don't have to go to chemo and go back to work - I just think those people are amazing."
Mrs Dance said she also saw strong support from the city's oncology services and while some of the services have swapped to telehealth due to coronavirus restrictions, the unit "bends over backwards to help you" and are looking for ways to improve health outcomes in the city.
"That's the other thing - they're trying to get trials regionally, so even if you have to go to Wagga - two hours is better than having to travel to Sydney, live in Sydney, pay rent for Sydney, be away from your family," Mrs Dance said.
Mrs Dance is now hoping she can convince other people suffering from ovarian cancer in the region to reach out if they are willing and talk and if there is one thing she hopes people follow, it is to "make every day and make every moment count".
"You can't change it and I think that's something I want to get through - I can't change my journey so we have to deal with the journey as it is and swing around those negatives to positives," Mrs Dance said.
"If you are unsure or you're not convinced that it's just your normal monthly problem or whatever, go and get it checked out, you can get a cancer marker done."