Racing past cancer
Hopkins resident Patty Kelly diagnosed with cancer at age 52
by Matthew Hankey
Sun sailor Newspapers
HOPKINS — Cancer has affected Hopkins resident Patty Kelly’s life since her father died in 2003 from lymphoma.
Four years later in 2007, Kelly received the news that she too had cancer — non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The previous fall, Kelly, now 58, had a persistent cold, and she noticed that the lymph nodes near her collarbone were enlarged.
The cold eventually left, but the enlarged lymph nodes remained for some time.
“In retrospect I felt tired, but not sick,” she said.
She had always been an avid exerciser, but even that became taxing on her body.
“I couldn’t run like I used to be able to,” Kelly said. “I would get winded.”
Her husband had consistently encouraged her to get her lymph nodes examined.
She did, and after tests, it was determined she should have a scan.
“That seemed really extreme to me,” Kelly recalled.
The scan revealed something doctors considered unusual, and Kelly had her lymph nodes biopsied. The news wasn’t good.
“I was just devastated,” she said. “It was horrible.”
As part of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s “First Connection” program, Kelly received a call from a woman who had the same type of cancer.
“It’s very lonely and you feel like you’re in this different club that you don’t want to be part of,” said Kelly about having cancer. “She made me feel much more hopeful and basically said, ‘you’re going to fine.’ That was very, very helpful to me.”
Kelly received a second opinion from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester regarding her diagnosis in fall 2007. A doctor there confirmed the diagnosis.
She immediately began taking Rituxan, which is given along with chemotherapy to fight the cancer.
By December 2007, Kelly was in complete remission.
Now, every three months, she heads to Rochester to get her dose of Rituxan.
Kelly said the hardest part of her diagnosis was coming to grips with her own mortality.
“Everyone knows you’re going to die … (a diagnosis) just brings it home in a new way,” she said.
But, being part of Team in Training has provided a life-saving outlet for her.
“Team has been such a huge difference in my life,” she said. “It keeps me energized and keeps me positive. Instead of worrying about cancer … I worry about the next race I have to run.”
With the team, she has done the Sprint event, Olympic distance and began cross-country ski season last year.
“That was extremely challenging,” she said. “I didn’t know how to ski at all.”
Last spring, she traveled to Maui to compete in a triathlon.
The team also has its social benefits, in part because every one there is for the same reason.
“It’s been great,” she said. “I have made so many friends. Everyone has out there for the cause and to fight blood cancer. And it’s not just about blood cancer. It’s about all cancers.”
Contact Matthew Hankey at email@example.com