Julie Pendleton thought she was just being cautious when she went to the doctor in July 2010.
The Laguna Beach resident thought the abdominal pain she was feeling could indicate appendicitis.
After getting a CAT scan, the doctor revealed something much worse: a tumor.
This weekend, Pendleton, 66, will be honored as the queen of the 10th annual Relay for Life at El Morro Elementary School.
The former speech therapist was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year. She said she couldn't imagine how a 4- by 6-inch tumor had made its way into her abdominal area without her knowledge.
"Did it show? No. Could (the doctor) feel it? No," she said.
Thin and healthy, Pendleton had no symptoms, which can include swelling in the abdomen, unexplained bloating and the sensation of feeling full.
In fact, the pain she went to the doctor for had only bothered her for a couple days.
She credits Dr. John Brown at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach for giving her optimism.
"You think you're going to die," she said.
But then she walked into Dr. Brown's office, and he told her, "You'll be fine."
By the time it was detected, the cancer had spread, so Brown operated and took out portions of Pendleton's intestines. She later had an arthroscopic surgery, in which Hoag's Dr. Ledford Powell removed the top lobe of one of her lungs.
During her weekly chemotherapy treatments, Pendleton makes friends with the people she meets.
One woman, she said, has had cancer for six years but continues to travel and look healthy.
She said that woman's story made her think that cancer is no longer an end-all disease.
Pendleton continues with chemotherapy treatments and is now cancer-free.
Pendleton, who attended Relay For Life events long before her diagnosis, will camp out with her husband, Larry, son Jon, daughter Cory and grandchildren during the weekend.
She's seen the fundraiser raise tens of thousands of dollars in small cities. She hopes Laguna Beach can be another success for the organization, which raises money for the American Cancer Society.
Organizers are aiming to fundraise $55,000 this year.
Pendleton also pointed out that Laguna is a small town in more ways than one.
Since her diagnosis, she's noticed that seven out of the 20 or so families on her street have been affected by cancer. Pendleton practically runs out of fingers as she counts neighbors, their relatives and the different types of the disease they've faced.
"It's pretty prevalent," she said.
If You Go
What: 10th annual Relay For Life
Where: El Morro Elementary School, 8681 N. Coast Hwy.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday