One Woman’s Cancer Survival Story
In 2013 Kelly Rode was first diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. Ten years later, her journey has been one of strength throughout adversity..
Upon learning of her diagnosis, Rode turned to Dr. Samer Schuman, a then new physician at Deaconess The Women’s Hospital. “If it wasn't for him, I would have had to go elsewhere—to either Vanderbilt or to Chicago or somewhere—because no one around here at the time did the procedures he was doing and which I needed.”
After an eight-hour surgery, Dr. Schuman sent the pathology reports out to other entities for additional feedback. The Mayo Clinic weighed in, saying it was ovarian cancer and Rode had only six to nine months to live. Dr. Schuman was not convinced that was truly the case.
MD Anderson had a different perspective, one that identified the cancer as extremely rare—but not insurmountable. “I got my diagnosis on a Thursday, and I was at MD Anderson on Tuesday. Dr. Schuman made all that possible,” shares Rode.
With the MD Anderson approach, Rode went five years cancer-free until it came back. At this point, Kelly underwent a liver resection among other treatments, as well as genetic testing. She was resistant to do the genetic testing at first, but ultimately decided it was the right move. Results showed Rode has the BRCA1 gene (the breast cancer gene). Upon learning this, and under the advisement of Dr. Schuman, she underwent a double mastectomy to prevent a breast cancer diagnosis down the road.
Cancer is persistent, though, and Rode’s cancer returned once again in September 2022. Fortunately, her latest CT scan came back clean. “It came back clean after three treatments of what Dr. Schuman has set up for me now,” notes Rode. “You know, and I always say, if he tells me to go bathe in the river, I'll be there every day.”
Expert Care Matters
One of the aspects that kept Rode’s spirits up is knowing she had a trusted team on her side at Deaconess. Many of the nurses she met in 2013 are still there. Rode knows that these relationships, while made under dire circumstances, helped her stay focused on her recovery.
And, she’s spreading the news about her experiences. “I should be on the hiring committee because I have gotten about three or four nurses hired there. I'm like, ‘Hey, you should go to Deaconess.’ Actually, one nurse, who was the flower girl in my wedding, now works for Dr. Schuman's office. I've just been very blessed with just a great care team, great doctor, a great facility and I am still here 10 years later.”
Importance of Maintaining a Positive Mindset
Rode’s journey through cancer has never been easy, but she continues to maintain a good outlook on her future. One of the things that helps her is to have the mentality of “just keep going.”
“If you truly believe it's going to work, it's going to work. I really think it is 100% your mindset when you go into this. If you think you're going to be sick and it's all gloom and doom, guess what? You're going to be sick and it's all gloom and doom. But, if you can start this whole process with the mindset of, ‘Hey, I can do this. This is doable. It's not going to be pretty. It really isn't, but I can do it,’ you will amaze yourself in what you can do.”