In May 2004, Kathleen went in for surgery for endometriosis. But her doctor quickly discovered that she was “loaded with cancer”: stage 3c ovarian cancer.
The surgery plan changed radically, all while she was still under anesthesia.
“He called Dr. Lele, who came to Buffalo General and operated on me. I believe Dr. Lele delayed his vacation to do this,” Kathleen says.
Shashikant Lele, MD, FACOG, is Clinical Chief of Gynecologic Oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and that was just the beginning of the role he would play in Kathleen’s life.
Kathleen began treatment immediately, qualified for a clinical trial and went into remission for 10 years. Advanced ovarian cancer is difficult to eradicate, so she has been called a miracle. She has had two recurrences, in 2015 and 2017, and has undergone radiation, as well as more chemo and surgery.
It’s been a journey of many ups and downs, and Kathleen credits her family and her faith for getting her through it — and the many people at Roswell Park, from Dr. Lele and his team to the volunteers and staff of the Wig and Head Covering Boutique in the Resource Center.
“Not only did they provide me with a hat and a wig, but they also provided me with courage and a smile” she says, “I left with a smile on my face and a positive attitude.”
And then there are the other patients Kathleen has connected with. Through them, she has discovered a purpose in her cancer.
“With pain, either you become bitter or better. I chose to become better. It’s only when you can focus in on the blessings and how good God has been to you throughout the years that you can put a smile on your face and realize that there’s a purpose in what you’re doing,” Kathleen says. “I have challenged myself to encourage other people. I pray for people to come to me and that I can help. I feel like my cancer has a purpose.”
Kathleen is also grateful for Roswell Park donors and the critical role they play in patients’ battles.
“Thank you, dear donors, for selflessly giving so clinical trials, research, new treatments and quality-of-life programs can continue to be available to people who you will never meet or know. If it wasn’t for kind and generous contributors who have been led to give financially to this wonderful organization, I most likely would not be here, continuing to fight.”