REDMOND, Wash — September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and Rita Simmons is in the middle of a battle with the illness. While she's on a mission to get better, she's also on a mission to spread awareness.
"If I can save one person, at least make them aware of the symptoms, then I feel like I've done a good job," said Simmons.
She said her cancer was mistaken for stomach pain by her doctor. If she knew what she knows now, she would have been able to start treatment earlier.
In the spring, she started to experience abdominal pain, but chalked it up to something she had eaten.
"I was feeling cramping and bloating and I just wasn't feeling comfortable but like a woman, you work through it, you push through," Simmons said.
She asked her doctor in June about her pain at her yearly physical. Blood work and an ultrasound on her upper abdomen checked out. She said her doctor told her to eat more pro-biotics.
"So I kept doing everything I was doing. I was super active but I felt something was wrong," Simmons said.
The pain got worse, and after experiencing excruciating pain during a family vacation, her husband took her to urgent care, and then to the ER where a CT scan was done.
That's when it was discovered that not only did Simmons have cancer on her ovaries, but it was stage 4.
"I thought this can't be true, this has got to be a nightmare and I got to wake up."
She wants her story to be a warning to other women: get your symptoms checked, get an ultrasound of your lower abdomen and get a CA-125 test. That tests monitors protein levels which can be a red flag to ovarian cancer.
"If you have any of the symptoms, bloating, cramping, back aches, having to feel like you have to go to the bathroom but really don't go, you talk to your doctor and have them do an ultrasound and the ca-125 test to get ahead of it because it could have saved me a lot of grief."
Simmons is undergoing several rounds of chemo and will be checking in with her oncologist in a few weeks to talk about surgery. Then after that surgery, it's nine more rounds of chemo to go.
She said it's a hard fight, but she's fighting it with a lot of support from family and friends.
She said she doesn't want anyone to go through what she and her family are going through.
"22,000 women a year get diagnosed with ovarian cancer, 14,000 don't survive," she said. "I'll survive, I will."