Surviving Well: Kathy, Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Kathy McGovern, a Denver native and music teacher, had a history with ovarian cancer even before she was diagnosed. It was the disease that killed her mother in 1985.

 “With the history of ovarian cancer in my family, I have always been very vigilant and watched for the disease very carefully,“  says Kathy.

Kathy normally went in for her annual exam each November, but in 2003 she had to miss the appointment. By January she had begun to feel really tired. Her doctor diagnosed her with depression and gave her antidepressants.

“I didn’t have any of the usual symptoms of ovarian cancer that I was normally on the lookout for,” said Kathy. “I didn’t have a bloated belly, which was a sign for my mother, I didn’t have back pain, I didn’t have bladder changed. I only had this terrible fatigue.”

Kathy was flipping through an ovarian cancer newsletter when she saw fatigue and nausea listed as ovarian cancer symptoms. She immediately called the doctor to set up an ultrasound, which showed a 10-centimeter mass.

 “I was shocked,” Kathy said. “In the span of a little over a year, this huge mass developed. Once we found that, my doctor referred me to a cancer specialist, Dr. Daniel Donato. By the time I had surgery, 10 days later, I was already starting to have other symptoms.”

The first step was to have a total hysterectomy, so that Dr. Donato could determine if the mass was malignant, and, if so, how far along the cancer had spread.

“I remember being on the operating table and I was about to be put under anesthetic,” Kathy said. “I was lying there, and one of the nurses said to me that she was in my music class years ago. The last thing I remember before being put under is her telling me, ‘I’ve loved music every day because of you.’ That was a beautiful thing to hear right before surgery.”

After the surgery, Kathy was diagnosed with Stage 2 ovarian cancer.

“When I first found out, I was shocked and terrified. I had watched my mother die of the same cancer. I had watched for the disease. I was vigilant. And yet, it snuck up on me like a thief in the night. While I was waiting for the diagnosis, I knew. I knew in the way that we know things that we can’t know.”

Kathy began chemotherapy treatments and says the hardest part of treatment was the fatigue that came afterward.

Kathy says that beating ovarian cancer gave her lasting gratitude, and an appreciation towards the big and small.

“Over the holiday weekend, I was sitting with my friends and family and I just looked around at everyone and said, ‘I just cannot believe how blessed I am to be alive. Our time is short, and I’ve learned to appreciate everything in my life.”

The Rose “Surviving Well” Calendar is a 15-month calendar highlighting our cancer services, physicians, and some inspirational stories from our patients. Kathy is our survivor for February, which is also Cancer Prevention Month. Click here to sign up to receive your FREE copy of the calendar.

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