Receiving & Giving Support
By Pat Battaglia, with gratitude to Kathy Q
In the waning days of the summer of 2020, Kathy Q experienced increasing pelvic pain that became so severe, she was admitted to the hospital. When imaging revealed an eight-centimeter mass on her ovary, the attending physician’s verdict was ovarian cancer. Surgery would be needed to remove the growth. However, when her OB/GYN examined Kathy the next day and ran some tests, this doctor did not feel the mass was cancerous. Still, she agreed it should be removed. Kathy opted for a complete hysterectomy, including removal of the ovaries.
The aftermath of her surgery brought unexpected news. Kathy’s pathology results revealed endometrial adenocarcinoma, also known as uterine cancer. It was stage 3A1, which means the cancer had spread to the outer layer of the uterus and potentially into areas immediately surrounding it.
“I was shocked because I thought it was not cancer according to the test my doctor did. Then I was scared because I lost my mom in 2015 to ovarian cancer,” Kathy recalls. “I thought, ‘I do not want to die.’”
“I was lucky that my sister Karen is a surgical scrub tech in obstetrics,” Kathy notes. “She had personally worked with my doctor and my oncologist so I knew both were great doctors who would take good care of me.” Kathy and her health care team put together a treatment plan consisting of chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and brachytherapy, a form of targeted radiation treatment. Kathy tolerated her treatments well. “The symptoms I had were bone pain, neuropathy, dizziness, and nausea, but I am doing great now over a year out of treatment. I’m still a little fatigued, but I am getting there.”
Throughout her treatment, Kathy’s family and friends rallied around her. “My brother Kevin, sisters Karen and Kim, and my dad have been here this entire time supporting me. My sister-in-law Karleen was awesome; she cooked for us, sat with me when I was not feeling well, and shopped for us. I have great friends who helped – too many to name – and my best friend Doris never left my side. She came over or called every day.”
Kathy’s work life was also impacted by her diagnosis. “I had just started a new job nine months before so I feared what might happen with that. But my co-workers were awesome and took great care me. Because of the pandemic, my employer laid me off but kept my health insurance, so I was able to do my treatments and safely recover at home.”
“During my first oncology visit, I was given a lot of information, including information on the Coalition,” Kathy continues. “I never knew the Coalition helped with gynecologic cancers. When I saw they did, I called and spoke to Ali, who set me up with a GYN101 session and it went from there. The programs are great and have helped me so much. I have attended the support groups and still do, and some of the educational seminars, the Brown Bag lunch, participated in the PALS* program, and this was my first-year volunteering for the Mother’s Day Weekend Pink Ribbon Walk.” A recently trained PALS mentor, Kathy has extended a compassionate listening ear to those facing a recent diagnosis similar to her own, and we’re pleased to have her on board with us.
To those who find themselves facing endometrial cancer – or any cancer – Kathy suggests, “Take it one day at a time and remember to breathe.” As simple as it sounds, taking that next breath can be difficult in the aftermath of a life-altering diagnosis. “It’s scary when you hear you have cancer, and the unknown can give you a lot of anxiety.”
Yet hope still abounds. “The fact that I am over a year out of treatment and still in remission gives me hope. My faith in God helps. I pray for myself and “my cancer family” often. Staying positive helps also; I always tell people that is key for getting through this entire process.”
Kathy’s hope and optimism are rooted in having faced her fears, asked the hard questions, gathered her inner resources, and relied on her support network. She has, in turn, become a treasured member of the Coalition’s survivor community, extending a compassionate listening ear to others along the way. We are grateful to have her with us!
Kathy’s story appeared in the Autumn 2022 newsletter, Voices of the Ribbon.