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Advocate staff photos by PAM BORDELON

Kelli Richmond works on her iPad while undergoing chemotherapy at Womans Hospital Jan. 28.

STILL FIGHTING
Ovarian cancer patient returns to treatment
Editors note: This is the fifth story in a series following 29-year-old Kelli Richmonds fight against ovarian cancer. BY PAM BORDELON
Advocate staff writer

When 29-year-old ovarian cancer patient Kelli Richmond made the decision to stop chemotherapy treatment last August, she knew she was taking a leap of faith. A PET scan then showed what was either a really low-grade stubborn disease or scar tissue and her gynecological oncologist, Dr. Jacob Estes, told her it was a 50/50 chance either way. But Estes backed Richmonds decision to stop and let her body heal from the grueling yearlong battle shed been waging. For two months Richmond felt great, then things changed. I had pretty much every symptom of ovarian cancer again, she said with a sigh. While family and friends tried to buck her up by saying it was probably just a urinary tract infection, Richmond knew better. While the symptoms are very much the same, internally I knew the difference, she said. I wanted to just yell at everyone, Youre not in my body. You dont understand whats going on. I had a CT scan and it showed no change, continued Richmond. I went to a GI doctor and had a scope done, and all that checked out they couldnt find anything. So Richmonds team of physicians talked. They are Estes; gastroenterologist Dr. Walker McDonald; Dr. Kellie Schmeeckle, whos taken over Richmonds case now that Estes has moved to Birmingham, Ala., to work at the University of Alabama Medical Center; and Dr. Brent Allain, her goto guy in case she needs surgery. The doctors agreed the next course of action was for a full-body PET scan. The scan confirmed that what everyone was hoping was scar tissue was in

Joining Kelli Richmond, seated right, in celebrating her 29th birthday with an informal get-together at The Cove in January are, seated from left, Melissa Parmalee, Brittany Kinsley and Mitch Dickson; standing middle from left, Nicole LeGlue, Jacques Gauthier, Chris Makerson, Jessica Levine, Jason Clement, Karianne Heins, Sarah Godley and Zac Woodring; and, back from left, Matthew McAlister, Chris Walker and Liesel Batz.
fact cancer. The tumor wasnt doing anything but it hadnt responded to treatment enough to go away. Im so glad I have doctors that listened to me and were persistent in finding out what the issue was, especially since the CAT scan didnt show anything at first, Richmond said. Though the stage III ovarian cancer Richmond was originally diagnosed with was very aggressive, she learned from Schmeeckle that this tumor is acting nothing like that. Its very low grade, very low activity, said Richmond. Even Dr. Estes said what she has isnt acting like ovarian cancer, added mom Patsy Richmond. He said its totally different from what it was. While Kelli Richmond is still convinced she made the right choice to give her body a much-needed break from treatment, Patsy Richmond cant help but wonder if it was the right decision. The current treatment protocol, which began a couple of days before Thanksgiving, is to treat the cancer as a chronic disease. Richmonds on the exact same regimen of Cytoxan every day and Avastin via IV every two weeks. Shes also continuing with her nutritional supplements and following a mostly vegan diet. Fish is my weakness, but I eat no refined sugars sugar feeds cancer cells, said Richmond. I firmly believe what Im putting in my body is making a difference, and I want to share that with the
See RICHMOND, page 2D

RICHMOND

Continued from page 1D world how you need to eat to fuel your body to feed the good cells in your body and to not feed the abnormal cells in your body. Richmond will continue to take Cytoxan every day until she gets a clear or stable scan. Once that happens, shell continue the Avastin IVs for about a year. Then well re-evaluate and see if I need a break if its not gone. At first staying on treatment indefinitely was not an option I wanted to even consider, said Richmond. But now that I realize the treatment Im on is not rigorous I still have hair, I can still go to work, workout, have a quality of life its OK. Richmond is back as the development manager for the ALS Association Louisiana Chapter. As long as Im living with cancer and not dying from it, Im perfectly OK with that. And make no mistake, Richmond is living her life to the fullest. Shes still writing her blog, What Comes After C? She is working with her chef friend in Los Angeles on a proposal for a cookbook based on a vegan, low-carb diet thats high in raw fruits and vegetables. Womans Hospital is going to shoot a video series about Richmonds journey, and, after being contacted by local interior designer Aime Walker, she was selected to receive a room makeover. Plans are to transform the exercise room at parents Patsy and Ron Richmonds home and turn it into a suite complete with a couch, TV, workout and arts and crafts areas. So I can go in that room, shut the door and get away or have friends

Advocate staff photo by PAM BORDELON

Celebrating with Kelli Richmond, right, at the Spanish Town Mardi Gras Ball on Feb. 12 are friends Mike Betz, left, and Melissa Parmalee.
over, added Richmond. I know theres always a chance for a new miracle, but I kinda feel like I already got my miracle, you know? she said. The fact that this disease didnt take over and the fact that I did find a medicine to get rid of the majority of it and the fact that whats there is just kind of hanging out and manageable Im totally OK with that. Its not ideal, but its definitely not the worst-case scenario. Im still waiting for the rest of the miracle, chimed in her mom, who was by her daughters bedside during her chemotherapy treatment. I dont think its finished. And mom Patsy Richmond may be right. Two weeks ago Richmond underwent another PET scan, and she reported the exciting results on her Facebook page drum roll please ... My cancers activity has dropped from SVU 4.6 to 3.5. we expect it to keep decreasing!!! yayayayay!!!! Im SO happy! Thank u everyone 4 ur love and support!