Tracey Bourke thought she had a hernia characterised by abdominal pain.
As it turned out, she had stage three ovarian cancer.
Her diagnosis, in November last year, was just by chance.
"Looking back now I probably had the symptoms for two years. But the symptoms weren't bad enough to go to the doctor.
"But the cancer had spread to my liver, it had gone to my bowel. I had to have an ileostomy and a hysterectomy."
It was just a bit of persistent abdominal pain that eventually led Bourke to her diagnosis.
She went to the doctor about changes in her bowel habits and a sensitive abdomen, and the doctor first believed it could be a hernia.
She was later told it wasn't.
Now the Rotorua woman wants more people to talk about ovarian cancers so they have a better chance of survival.
The five-year survival rate for ovarian cancer in New Zealand is 39 per cent and there is a 70 per cent chance of recurrence post-treatment.
According to the New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation, one woman dies of ovarian cancer every 48 hours in New Zealand. Ovarian cancer has the highest death rate of all gynaecological cancers.
One woman dies from a gynaecological cancer every 24 hours.
"If we get our voice out there and we're heard, and we are talking about the symptoms to be mindful of, like bloating, then we'll be aware we might have a gynaecological cancer," Bourke said.
"But my symptoms never would have taken me to the doctor because I just put it down to menopause."
There are five gynaecological cancers - cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulval. All have similar but slightly varying symptoms.
Bourke told the Rotorua Daily Post Weekend while her diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow, she only shed a few tears.
"I always try to turn a negative into a positive and I never ever said 'why me?' it was just, 'I've got this, I'm gonna fight it, I'm gonna do everything that I need to do in order to beat it'.
"It has happened to me because I believe I can cope with it."
Survival statistics for ovarian cancer have not changed for 30 years and 85 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease.
Founder of Talk Peach, a charity that focuses on gynaecological health, Tash Crosby described the statistic as gut-wrenching.
The Whakatāne-raised woman was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016, and believes staying silent is killing New Zealand women - but there are ways to change this.
"We can now have open conversations about breasts, men's rugby teams are wearing pink, the stigma has gone and this is what is needed for the pink bits below too.
"We need funding to support those diagnosed. There are no big groups out there doing marathons for ovaries, vulvas, cervixes or vaginas, which is a travesty."
September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness month, and Crosby believes it has crept past without a whisper.
"Stigma plays a part, so does the fact that we don't have the army of survivors to march the streets and fundraise.
"To put it bluntly, we are all dying. We literally don't live long enough to form the army of advocates that our breast cancer whānau have done so incredibly."
There are 28 women currently in Lakes District Health Board care and registered as having gynaecological cancer, but a spokeswoman said there was "no way" of reporting all the women in the health board area, only the ones in its care.
Lakes District Health Board clinical nurse specialist of gynaecology and lead colposcopy nurse Talei Shirley said there were different types of abnormal cervical smear results, which was often the first tool in picking up some gynaecological cancers.
"Sometimes women may have an abnormal smear and be okay to just have it repeated in another year. If a woman has a smear test that needs to be checked, she will be referred to colposcopy.
"An abnormal smear test or referral to colposcopy will very rarely mean cancer, but having those checks done if they are needed, can make all the difference. If you have an appointment, please do come along."
Each of the five gynaecological cancers has their own signs and symptoms, but the main things to note include
• Persistent bloating
• Abnormal bleeding – bleeding between periods, after sex, and post menopause
• Changes in bowel habits – diarrhoea or constipation
• Back pain
• Changes to the skin
• Pain during sex
• Pelvic or abdominal pain
• Changes to eating habits – feeling full quickly, loss of appetite
• A recurring or persistent itch on the vulva
• A growth or lump on the vulva
• Swelling, pain or tenderness in the vagina or on the vulva
• Needing to urinate more frequently or urgently
• Burning pain when urinating