MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Around 400 Minnesota women get the same scary diagnosis each year — ovarian cancer.

The average age to get the news is 63, but younger Minnesotans are also affected.

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Twenty-six-year-old Wendy Thurston and her husband have had an exhausting five months as new parents. But sleep deprivation was the least of their worries.

“Normal person thinks they just have maternity leave, spend time with your baby,” Thurston said. “And I’ve been in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices and stuff.”

A month after she delivered Audrey, she found herself hurting again.

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“It was like excruciating pain in my abdomen, and I went in to the hospital in the middle of the night and it was an ovarian cyst. I had no idea that it was cancerous at the time,” she said. “So I was diagnosed, it’s pretty scary when you have a 4 week old to find out that you have cancer.”

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She learned about the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, or MOCA, on Facebook. They are an organization that has support groups for young women like herself. It is group who also makes dreams like her’s come true.

“This year we’ll be sending people on all kinds of trips: family trips, delayed honeymoons,” MOCA Executive Director Kathleen Gavin said. “We have a woman who wants to take her 4 year old to Alaska to teach her the love of the outdoors.”

Thanks to an anonymous donor, the group gives away Dream Awards year after year. Thurston is receiving one this year.

“So we’re going on a family vacation, a cruise through the Caribbean, to the Bahamas, so I’m pretty excited,” Thurston said.

She first has to finish chemotherapy. Doctors caught it early and saved one ovary, in hopes that one day Audrey can have a healthy sibling and a healthy mama.

Click here to learn more about the Dream Awards, and click here to donate to MOCA.

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Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield