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PEOPLE

THE ADVOCATE

SECTION D

FRIDAY

OCTOBER 15, 2010

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★★

. . . . . . . . . . 5D ★★ New year, new life

New year, new life

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON Kelli Richmond undergoes her third round of chemotherapy
Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON
Kelli Richmond undergoes her third round of chemotherapy treatment
at Woman’s Hospital last January.
Woman enjoys new outlook
after fight with ovarian cancer
Editor’s note: This is the fourth
and final story in a series fol-
lowing 28-year-old Kelli Rich-
mond’s fight against ovarian
cancer.
BY PAM BORDELON
Advocate staff writer
One year ago, Kelli Richmond
was handed what amounted to
said. “I’m going with my gut in-
stinct that it’s scar tissue, and
I’ve decided to take a break
from treatment.”
She’s fully aware it’s a risky
decision, but Estes, who has
moved to Birmingham, Ala., to
practice at the University of Al-
abama Medical Center, told her
that it was a 50/50 chance either
a death sentence: She was di-
agnosed with Stage III ovarian
cancer.
Today, however, she can flash
way, and it was a decision she’d
have to make.
“He asked me how I felt, and
I told him my body needed a
a big smile and talk about her
future.
“Wowza!” the petite 28-year-
old exclaimed, thinking back
on the year she’s endured. “Did
that really just happen to me?
It’s been the longest, fastest
year of my life.”
After undergoing surgery
last October, Richmond began
chemotherapy only to discover
after three rounds that it wasn’t
working.
That led to a trip to M.D. An-
derson Cancer Center in Hous-
ton, where doctors developed a
special protocol that her doctor,
Jacob Estes, could administer
here at Woman’s Hospital. A
July PET scan showed that
taking Cytoxan every day com-
bined with rounds of Avastin
every two weeks was working:
break, that it needed to heal,”
said Richmond, adding that
the doctor who read her scan
advised her to continue treat-
ment. “I haven’t healed from
surgery and my body lets me
know that. I’ll have another
scan three months from the last
one, and we’ll see what’s going
on and take it from there … it’s
There was an almost complete
response just a little residual
disease by the bladder but “all
the stuff near my spleen, liver
and kidneys was gone.”
In August after completing
the sixth round of Avastin,
Richmond underwent another
PET scan and on Aug. 12 she got
the results — no change from
the earlier scan. “It’s either a
really low-grade stubborn dis-
ease or scar tissue,” Richmond
a leap of faith.”
Faith is something on which
Richmond has relied through-
out this journey. Right before
her last scan, she went to see
Sister Dulce, a nun said to have
healing powers.
Dulce didn’t detect any can-
cer and advised Richmond to
trust Estes. “She said to come
back every other month, and
she’ll pray and see if she de-
tects any more cancer in be-
tween scans.”
One of Richmond’s dreams
was an eastern Mediterranean
cruise. On July 22 she and mom
Patsy Richmond, sister Kristin
Stewart and cousin Brad John-
son flew into Rome where they
spent a few days before cruis-
ing to Sicily, Athens, Crete and
Kusadasi, Turkey.
The spiritual highlight of the
Photo provided by
KYLE LEMAIRE,
Spaceless Photography
A post-chemo Kelli
Richmond has a lot
of reasons to smile.
➤See LIFE, page 2D
Photos provided by KELLI RICHMOND From left, Kelli Richmond, Woman‘s Hospital oncology nurse Jennifer Arceneaux

Photos provided by KELLI RICHMOND

From left, Kelli Richmond, Woman‘s Hospital oncology nurse Jennifer Arceneaux and Woman’s social worker Robyn Maggio do yoga on the steps of the State Capitol on Sept. 4 as part of Gynecological Awareness Month activities.

LIFE

Continued from page 1D

trip was praying in the silent chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica. “I got to personally thank God in the closest place to him I could be,” Richmond said. “I prayed for people I’ve met going through the same thing as me; it was really cool.” As far as her favorite stop, that was Sicily; “it’s what you ideally think of as Italian vil- lages.” She also liked Kusadasi and Ephesus, where she visited Mary’s House, where Jesus’ mother and St. John the Evan- gelist are said to have lived in the early years of Christianity. And, for the captain’s dinner, Richmond wore what was sup- posed to be her wedding dress. “It was the perfect celebra- tion that my treatment is work- ing,” Richmond said. “I’m def- initely one of those people who could bop around Europe for a few months and be OK with it.

I loved the food, the people are

very nice, the Mediterranean is beautiful and the shopping — to die for. The whole trip was

liberating in a sense. I had de- cided to go whether it was a celebration of my healing or not.” Back home in Baton Rouge, Richmond is resuming her “normal life.” She’s back at work as the development di- rector for the ALS Association Louisiana Chapter. It’s a busy time at ALS with fundraising walks taking place across the state and Richmond pushed herself a little too much in the beginning, but she’s now found

a good rhythm. “I couldn’t ask

for a better boss and co-work- ers.” She has a new man in her life — Mitch Dickson, a first-year LSU law student whom she met almost three months ago. “We complement each other very well,” said Richmond, glowing as she talked of this new devel- opment. “We challenge each other to be a better person. We value each others’ opinions.” She gives him extra credit for putting up with a 28-year- old menopausal woman. “I’m not the easiest person to deal with,” said Richmond, laugh- ing. “It’s pretty funny, I have more in common with my mom and her friends than my friends. I’m a handful to put up with. … he handles it like a trooper.” As she’s done throughout her treatment and with her doc- tor’s support, Richmond has

worked with a wellness consul- tant to help with the menopause symptoms, too. She’s already seen a difference after beginning the supple- mental regimen a couple of weeks ago. After visiting with old friend chef Nick Brune, who owns Eco Caterers in Los Angeles, Richmond is doing research on the best ways to nourish your body. She wants to produce a cookbook geared toward can- cer patients. “Everything I’ve come across so far as cook- books go has been about

recipes for nausea, etc., but not the essentials of how to eat,” she said. “I believe you are what you eat. A lot of skeptical people think it’s a bunch of hooey, but I really believe in it.” Richmond’s also resumed an old passion — dancing. She’s in

a class at Jeffie Jean Dance

Studio of what she describes as “20-something-year-old has beens” — former high school dancers giving it another try.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Richmond, who was on crutch- es after taking a fall in class the night before. “My first

thought was, ‘Ouch,’ but then it was, ‘I just jumped in the air and hurt myself, but I was able to do it, and I’m going to be OK.’” And Richmond is continuing

to share her inspirational story.

One way is through her new blog, What Comes After C? (http://wcac.tumblr.com) “It’s about my life after cancer. It

has some specifics, but some of

it is life in general … things

anybody going through trials and tribulations in their life can

relate to,” she said. “I’ve had so many people tell me they read my story in the paper or read postings on Facebook. I even had a guy injured in the war who said I inspired him in his recovery. “I get humbled, chills,” Rich- mond said. “It’s amazing for someone to tell me they got shot and that in their healing process they were inspired by me. Fighting cancer is a big deal, but divorce, pregnancy troubles, losing a child, a breakup, any heartache you can think of — they tell me I in- spired them. There are a lot of stories out there, but I’m will- ing to share mine and people need that. Not everybody is willing to share their stories, and they’re not easy for me to read. I bawled my eyes out in CC’s when I read the first one.” Richmond also served on the Girl Cancer Awareness Com-

Richmond also served on the Girl Cancer Awareness Com- Kelli Richmond, right, with, from left, sister

Kelli Richmond, right, with, from left, sister Kristin Stewart, cousin Dr. Brad Johnson and mom Patsy Richmond stand in front of the Te mple of Hephae st us in At hens.

mittee that organized the city’s first Gynecological Awareness Month in September.

“This has been the most sur- real experience ever, but it’s also the most real experience I’ve ever been through,” said Richmond of the past year. “I look back at the person I was a

year ago — that girl sitting here a year ago is almost un- recognizable. I have an outlook on life I wouldn’t wish on any- one else but, wow, what this world would be like if everyone had the perspective of a dying person. I feel like I’ve aged 70 years in a year. I wouldn’t give back the experience for any- thing. It sucked — it really, re- ally sucked, but so much good came out of it and, too, every- body wonders ‘who’s going to show up at my funeral?’ Well, I know the answer to that ques- tion, and I didn’t have to die, and those people are surpris- ing.” In particular, Richmond ad- mits she could not have made it without her mom, dad Ron, her sister, her therapist, Lyell Turner at Nature’s Wellness, the nurses at Woman’s Hospi- tal, Estes and the prayers of family, friends and complete strangers. And dealing with the uncer- tain but potentially bright fu-

ture? “The majority of time I try not to think about it, but I have moments when I re- process what has happened and what could happen,” she said, reflectively, admitting she will probably have to re- sume some type of mainte- nance chemo. “The chances of this staying away are pretty slim to none. I have a very strong faith that if God wants me to be OK, I will be. I try not having a pity par- ty for too long; I just put my big girl panties on and keep march- ing.”

be OK, I will be. I try not having a pity par- ty for too long;