Almost four years ago, Kelly Collevechio spoke with WHYY’s Maiken Scott about her pregnancy journey which then became her fight to battle Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer.
The Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation sat down with Kelly Collevechio four years later to discuss everything that has transpired since her two beautiful babies, Brielle and James, were born in 2015 and everything that ovarian cancer has taught her about family, love and living life to the fullest.
SROCF: Can you share a bit about your story?
Kelly: It all started with my husband and I trying to get pregnant. A couple of tests led me to a surgery where they biopsied and ultimately found that I had a borderline papillary serous tumor with a microinvasion in the lymph nodes. This automatically got me diagnosed with stage 3C, since it was in my lymph nodes. I was then able to do egg harvesting over a period of six weeks, and then went right into six months of chemo treatment.
SROCF: After your first surgery, what were the next steps of the process and treatment?
Kelly: I went right back into the OR a week later to do my staging surgery and that’s when we learned it was Stage 3C. I was lucky enough to be working with my gynecologist and oncologist as well as my reproductive endocrinologist who also worked very closely to determine that they could actually take the time to harvest my eggs. It was obviously a lot to take in at once, with the whirlwind of hormone injection shots every day, but I’m so lucky I did that. I might not have had the knowledge to even ask questions like that, so it was great that they worked together as a team to help me through all of it.
SROCF: Did you have symptoms, or did it ever cross your mind that you may have ovarian cancer?
Kelly: I had absolutely no symptoms. Growing up, I always had irregular periods and was told that was normal. I could go 20 days in-between and then 45 days in-between my periods, but other than that I had no symptoms whatsoever. I even think back because I had just gotten married and I wanted to diet before my wedding so, naturally, I thought, “are my pants just not fitting or was that bloating? Should I have known?” But other than that, nothing stood out the me.
SROCF: Were any other masses found after your first surgery?
Kelly: At this point, I still had one ovary and my uterus, but because my cancer was of the ovary, I was definitely weary about getting pregnant all together. I checked with my oncologist, my fertility doctor and I went for a third opinion to find out about what the research said about getting pregnant and if it could cause a recurrence. All three said it was perfectly safe and that there was not enough evidence to suggest it would cause a recurrence.
Fast forward nine months, during my c-section asked my doctor, “do you see anything growing down there?” All I remember is him responding with, “funny you should ask.” Sure enough, the washings they took came up consistent with the previous tumor I had before.
SROCF: After you gave birth to James and Brielle, what were the next steps and the doctor’s treatment plans?
Kelly: Two days before Christmas, I went in and found out I had two more tumors on my other ovary that had spread to my uterus. The doctors decided to perform a radical hysterectomy. That was only two months after the twins were born. All of the other biopsies of the lymph nodes and the surrounding organs were clear, which was great news, and I didn’t end up needing chemo this time around.
SROCF: Over the past couple of years, have you had any other potential scares? Is this something you think about often?
Kelly: It’s something I think about all of the time. It’s really hard to get out of my head. Even just this week I started having pains in my right pelvis, and I got scared. I immediately booked an appointment with my doctor; we did the CAT scan, and everything was totally fine, and my tumor markers are at an all-time low. So far, so good.
SROCF: Obviously having two beautiful, healthy babies is probably helpful to keep your mind off of it too.
Kelly: I can’t even think or talk about it without getting choked up because it’s just so crazy the way it all happened. It really was just in time, and it’s crazy that I was able to keep my uterus for just those nine months. It’s a blessing.
SCOCF: Are there any words of encouragement or something you would like to pass along to other women going through this?
Kelly: I know it’s cliché, but I am being very honest, very real and very raw when I do say something like this has taught me never ever take another day for granted as long as I live. I want to soak up every moment of everything, and I believe this pushes me to take the kids everywhere and do everything with them. I would say just enjoy life. It’s the ride, and be happy in everything you do.
If anyone is dealing with infertility issues, or any kind of female issue, and they’re on the fence of whether or not to seek medical evaluation – do it. I hope you’re reading this article and that you think of me. Call and make an appointment. You might think it can’t happen to you until it does, and I believe it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
SROCF: As an ovarian cancer survivor, is there anything you or your family does to give back to the ovarian cancer community?
Kelly: Yes, I have two sisters who do most of the leg work with fundraising. My whole family are all go-getters and front runners. Almost every year, we fundraise for Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation. This year, we sold over 200 tickets for the upcoming Phillies game on September 12. Click here to buy tickets for this year’s game! We try to do everything we can to spread awareness.
SROCF: Do you and your husband think about how you’ll tell your kids the journey you took to getting pregnant when they’re older and can better understand?
Kelly: I was actually trying to keep them from seeing any old pictures or knowing about it just because I didn’t know how they would react. Brielle ended up finding some old pictures of me during chemo, and I looked at my daughter and said, “Do you know why I look like that?” and she said, “You were sick.”
I got chills everywhere. And she just said, “I’m glad you’re not sick anymore.” I’m crying even thinking about it right now, but she just put down the picture and started doing something else. It was really sweet and small, but she just knew. Now when I cry it’s a good cry. I’m blessed beyond belief, and I’m forever grateful for every day.