At first, Kelly Barnard just thought she had a bad stomach ache. She’d felt “little twinges of pain” in her stomach before, she tells the Duluth Tribune, but it was nothing like the pain she’d felt just four days before Valentine’s Day 2013. “It was horrendous,” she tells the paper. “I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move.” She called her mom, Beth LaVigne, who whisked Kelly from her dorm room at the College of St. Scholastica and drove her to a local emergency room. There, doctors told her something she didn’t expect to hear. “They said it looked like my ovary had basically exploded,” she tells the paper. Kelly underwent emergency surgery to remove a cyst from her ovary.
On Valentine’s Day, Kelly’s phone rang. Her doctors wanted her to come back to the hospital and had more unexpected news for the then 19-year-old: She had colon cancer, and it was “metastatic,” spreading from her colon to her ovary. “So, not the best Valentine’s Day, to say the least,” she tells the Tribune.
After her diagnosis, Kelly tells us that she and her family met with a surgeon who suggested they “take some time” to decide “whether to implant a stent and start chemo immediately or surgically remove the tumor from my descending colon,” she says. She and her family decided time wasn’t exactly something they could spare, so Kelly’s mom called Mayo Clinic to seek a second opinion. “They told us to come immediately,” Kelly says.
At Mayo, Kelly met with colon and rectal surgeon Robert Cima, M.D., who the Tribune reports decided that immediate surgery would be her best chance for survival, especially given her young age. “She’s a young, healthy person otherwise,” Dr. Cima tells the paper. “So the opportunity ... to know that she’ll tolerate it was there.” Not only did Kelly tolerate the aggressive surgery, which removed “all visible signs” of her tumor, but she’s kept her cancer at bay for two years, which Dr. Cima tells the Tribune is good news. “What we do know is 85 percent of all recurrences occur within the first two years,” he says. “She’s two years out with no clinical evidence of recurrence. Each day is a win.”
And those wins, Kelly says, couldn’t have happened without her care team at Mayo. “Everyone was so friendly and made sure I knew what was going on at all times,” she tells us. “I felt like I was in the best care possible and the needs of myself and my family were exceeded. I am so eternally grateful to Dr. Cima and his team. They saved my life.”
You can give us a win by sharing your comments below and sharing this story with others using our handy social media tools.