It’s a Small World
Some interesting insight over lunch
By Cynthia R. Nelson

While I was in Florida last month for some R & R, my friend Carol asked me if I would meet with a woman she knew who was being treated for Stage III Ovarian Cancer. Carol thought I could provide some insight and guidance as she was going through similar treatment. I agreed, and we set a date for lunch.

I was at first surprised to find that the woman was Kelly LaDuke, a professional photographer whose work has been published extensively in national magazines, newspapers and books. Her portfolio includes the likes of Denzel Washington, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. But that day, she was just another cancer patient.

We started chatting and sharing our experiences. I learned that Kelly, though based in Jacksonville, FL, still traveled extensively for work. “You’re just going, going, going. That’s great, because attitude really does make a difference,” I told her.

Her positive outlook that she’d outlive her husband was only part of it, she responded, noting that she had been flying 900 miles to New Jersey to receive Vitamin C infusions. “I live in Jersey,” I exclaimed, and asked her where she was going for her treatments. Imagine my surprise when she said Marlton!

The self-described “alternative therapy kind of gal” had read an article that discussed the success other cancer patients were having with Vitamin C infusions. Ever the opportunist, Kelly called the doctor and fit herself in. In early

June she began flying to our area for treatment.

Over salad and pizza, with a bright pink scarf wrapped around her head, Kelly shared with me her thoughts about holistic remedies and the belief that the intravenous drip of Vitamin C is one of the reasons she can still run several miles a day, even after completing five rounds of chemotherapy.

Her decision to try alternative treatments – which also includes about 40 vitamins, various herbs and twice daily fermented soy drinks – is not a slap in the face to the medical community, she said. It is simply her way to aid the traditional protocols. “I think it’s all working synergistically in my body,” she said, along with the chemotherapy.

I sat and listened in awe to Kelly. “You should try it,” she suggested to me at the end of lunch.

As I left the restaurant I realized that holistic therapies are a very personal matter. I remember when I was first diagnosed with cancer many people gave me their opinions about alternative treatments. Some were simply stated: “You should try X. My sister said it really worked for her.” Others were more forceful. I remember one acquaintance called me regularly – like every week – and basically kept saying, “Do this. It’ll be good for you.” While I appreciated her desire to help, the badgering really upset me and turned me against trying her suggestion.

So far, the most alternative therapy I’ve pursued has been massage. I love having someone gently kneed my body with soothing music playing in the background. It really helps calm my mind along with my physical being.

I’ve inquired about a few other things since meeting Kelly. I’ve had an angel reading and asked about acupuncture to relieve some of the side effects from radiation. I must say I am not averse to trying treatment with Vitamin C, but I’m not quite there yet.

My advice to others: keep an open mind and try what you think is right for you. And always accept a lunch invitation – you never know who you might meet.


Celebrating Life

Over the months that I have been chronicalling my journey with cancer, I have received a lot of community support and feedback – people tell me I’ve helped shed some insight on this horrible disease. So let me ask you – if you had a choice, would you want to go through all the pain and anguish that comes with cancer?

I think not. So it still amazes me that so many women in our community admit to avoiding the doctor for regular gynecologic check-ups. A friend of mine who has been right there with me every step of the way this past year, STILL has not made an appointment with her gynecologist.

According to the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, every hour, approximately 10 women in the United States will be diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, which includes ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancer (also known as uterine cancer), as well as lesser known vulvar and tubal cancer.

In 2005, more than 77,000 women were diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer, making it the fourth most common cancer group in American women. And as we all know, certain cancers can be fatal.

So why, I wonder, do millions of women still avoid visiting their doctors?

I’ve heard countless excuses: “I’m too busy.”

“My last visit was fine.”

“I have no family history of cancer.” I know that going to the gynecologist can be a hassle, but it’s worth the inconvenience.

A Pap smear, for instance, while not 100 percent foolproof, can help identify questionable cells in the cervix before they result in cervical cancer. And there is a blood test that can measure certain hormones in the body that may be symptomatic of ovarian cancer.

Granted, in my case, my blood work was fine as were the Pap smears I was having every six months. But when I didn’t feel comfortable I went back to the doctor. A sonogram revealed a 10 cm ovarian cyst that was later identified as cancerous. When I had it surgically removed three weeks later it had grown to 15 cm, the size of a small grapefruit. I really hate to think what could have happened to me if I had not proactively gone to the doctor when I did.

I truly believe that even for the most medically-adverse women, regular visits to the gynecologist CAN make a difference.

Thus, in honor of September being Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, I am asking those of you who over the months have been following my story to think of me and take action.

Give your doctor a call. Make an appointment for your annual exam. Men: encourage the ladies in your life to be proactive.

I’m not the most religious person, and I’m not the most spiritual either. But I do believe that I was given a task to educate people about cancer. My only hope is that I’ve helped at least one person avoid the road I’ve been down.

For more information on gynecologic cancers, the signs and symptoms, contact the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation at 1-800-444-4441 or visit

September 2006
Related Articles

Comments are closed.


Get SJ Mag in Your Inbox

Subscribe for the latest on South Jersey dining, weekend entertainment, the Shore and much more - sent directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
Email Format
WATCH NOW: Millennials looking for Mentors