Advocate staff photos by PAM BORDELON

Kelli Richmond works on her iPad while undergoing chemotherapy at Woman’s Hospital Jan. 28.

Ovarian cancer patient returns to treatment
Editor’s note: This is the fifth story in a series following 29-year-old Kelli Richmond’s 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 Richmond’s decision to stop and let her body heal from the grueling yearlong battle she’d 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, ‘You’re not in my body. You don’t understand what’s 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 couldn’t find anything.” So Richmond’s team of physicians talked. They are Estes; gastroenterologist Dr. Walker McDonald; Dr. Kellie Schmeeckle, who’s taken over Richmond’s 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 wasn’t doing anything but it hadn’t responded to treatment enough to go away. “I’m so glad I have doctors that listened to me and were persistent in finding out what the issue was, especially since the CAT scan didn’t 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. “It’s very low grade, very low activity,” said Richmond. “Even Dr. Estes said what she has isn’t acting like ovarian cancer,” added mom Patsy Richmond. “He said it’s 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 can’t 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. Richmond’s on the exact same regimen of Cytoxan every day and Avastin via IV every two weeks. She’s 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 I’m putting in my body is making a difference, and I want to share that with the
➤See RICHMOND, page 2D


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, she’ll continue the Avastin IVs for about a year. “Then we’ll re-evaluate and see if I need a break if it’s 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 I’m on is not rigorous — I still have hair, I can still go to work, workout, have a quality of life — it’s OK.” Richmond is back as the development manager for the ALS Association Louisiana Chapter. “As long as I’m living with cancer and not dying from it, I’m perfectly OK with that.” And make no mistake, Richmond is living her life to the fullest. She’s 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 that’s high in raw fruits and vegetables. Woman’s Hospital is going to shoot a video series about Richmond’s journey, and, after being contacted by local interior designer Aimée Walker, she was selected to receive a room makeover. Plans are to transform the exercise room at parents Patsy and Ron Richmond’s 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 there’s 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 didn’t take over and the fact that I did find a medicine to get rid of the majority of it and the fact that what’s there is just kind of hanging out and manageable — I’m totally OK with that. It’s not ideal, but it’s definitely not the worst-case scenario.” “I’m still waiting for the rest of the miracle,” chimed in her mom, who was by her daughter’s bedside during her chemotherapy treatment. “I don’t think it’s 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 cancer’s activity has dropped from SVU 4.6 to 3.5. we expect it to keep decreasing!!! yayayayay!!!! I’m SO happy! Thank u everyone 4 ur love and support!”