Image of Kathe Maxwell, an ovarian cancer patient at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center

Extreme Pain Sent Kathe to the Doctor Only to Discover She had Ovarian Cancer

Kathe Maxwell was surprised when suddenly out of nowhere she had a burst of acute abdominal pain lasting for 15 minutes. The next day Kathe went to her doctor who immediately sent her to the emergency department, where a CT scan revealed that Kathe had a tumor above her ovaries.

“When the pain started, I knew something was wrong,” says Kathe. Kathe met with Michael Berman, M.D. who specializes in gynecologic oncology at Long Beach Medical Center.

Since the tumor was above Kathe’s ovaries and uterus, it was not readily accessible, and could not be biopsied until surgery. A week after meeting with Dr. Berman, Kathe underwent surgery and the tumor was removed. Biopsies revealed that Kathe had both stage two ovarian cancer and stage one endometrial cancer.

Ovarian Cancer a Silent Killer, But Not for Kathe

Ovarian cancer ranks fourth in deaths caused by cancer among women, causing more deaths than any other female reproductive system cancer. Ovarian cancer has often been called the “silent killer” because its symptoms are not thought to develop until it is nearly too late. Dr. Berman thinks that the tumor, or Kathe’s ovaries, may have twisted causing the acute pain in her abdomen. However the pain was created, it ultimately saved Kathe’s life or she may have never known until it was too late.

“You realize cancer can hit anyone at anytime,” says Kathe, “I was just fortunate they found it.”

After her surgery, Kathe received six treatments of chemotherapy with one treatment every three weeks. Now it has been a year and Kathe is still in the clear.

“Thorough diagnostics allowed us to catch Kathe’s ovarian cancer at an early, curable stage,” says Dr. Berman, “Within two weeks of diagnosis, we successfully intervened and removed the malignant mass. The fact that Kathe is cancer-free now is a testament that early detection translates into a higher cure rate.”

Throughout her battle Kathe always maintained a positive attitude, she tried not to dwell on it too much, however, “life became more precious,” she admits. Kathe truly appreciated the care she received at Long Beach Medical Center.

“The people really cared and had concern for you as an individual; even though it is a scary situation you didn’t feel all the ‘drama’ - they made it easy.”

Giving Back, Kathe Becomes a Mentor

Kathe was determined to give back and now is a mentor for the Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support & Education program at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center. As a mentor Kathe helps other women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer by sharing her knowledge, support and encouragement.

“Cancer is a scary word,” says Kathe, “but it can be life changing in a positive way - I was able to learn a lot.”