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'Your world stops' - ovarian cancer devastates woman who now hopes to help others

Louisiana woman joins other ovarian cancer survivors to bring awareness and support to the upcoming Royal Teal Tea luncheon on Sept. 27.

NEW ORLEANS — Ovarian cancer is estimated to take the lives of 13,000 women this year, but there is hope. Women with this rare cancer are living longer with more treatment options.

And a Gretna woman is making it part of her mission to increase awareness.

Kathi Callahan lives and gives. She's had a national acting career, been an entrepreneur retailer, a traveler, and worked to support those who serve and their families, as the wife of a U.S. Coast Guard commander.

A year ago she was working to get donated ball gowns, free for active duty women, and military wives, to make military, and Mardi Gras balls affordable for them. That's when she felt tired, bloated, and weak.

“I got the diagnosis on my birthday, October 3. The doctor took one look at me and said, ‘You're going to the hospital for a CT scan.’ And in 45 minutes, I was told I had stage 3, metastatic ovarian cancer,” remembers Callahan.

Kathi is only 63 years old.

“Your world stops. Everything. Your plans, everything that you think you're going to have time to do, it just stops,” she said through tears.

One night she woke up and realized that reality had also hit her husband, retired Rear Admiral David Callahan.

“My husband was at the foot of the bed with his head down. He was crying quietly because he didn't want me to see him cry, and that just broke my heart.”

“The most common age for diagnosis of ovarian cancer is 63. So, this is an age where women aren't seeing an OB-GYN regularly,” said Dr. Tara Castellano a gynecologic oncologist at LSU Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Castellano specializes in female cancers. She says BRCA gene mutations increase your risk for ovarian cancer. She says women need regular pelvic exams. Still, ovarian cancer is often found later, because symptoms, of bloating, and indigestion can be attributed to other normal issues.

“That's why seeing a specialized gynecologic oncologist for ovarian cancer to do your surgery, and your chemo is important,” said Dr. Castellano.

By doing that she says survival goes up, and recurrence goes down.

Kathi had chemotherapy six times. Major surgery found 500 tumors on other organs.

She is not giving up and is spreading awareness, by wearing clothes, and even hair color in ovarian cancer teal. She plans to join other survivors at the Royal Teal Tea to help other patients, and move research forward.

“You just can't wait around when everything's going smoothly to try to be happy. You have to try to muddle through all of that, to try to be happy,” Callahan said.

The Royal Teal Tea is Wednesday, Sept. 27. It will help the LSU Health Foundation support women with ovarian cancer, and research.

You can buy tickets or give a donation by clicking here.

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