Pat's Experience with Ovarian Cancer


Pat was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor in August 1996. She had a hysterectomy at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and was advised that she had Stage III ovarian cancer, and surgery did not successfully remove all of the cancer cells. Her surgeon referred Pat to Dr. Stephen A. Cannistra, Director of Gynecologic Medical Oncology, who developed a new protocol for ovarian cancer treatment at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Pat endured her first few rounds of chemotherapy relatively well. She suffered the predicted side effects - hair loss, nausea and loss of appetite - but her relative good health brought her through the treatment at Dana Farber in good physical shape. Six months after her first round of chemo the cancer was back.

Pat elected to undergo a double bone marrow transplant to combat the cancer once again and to improve her long-term chances for a complete recovery. The procedure went well, but her recovery was long and complicated. In addition to the extreme fatigue, lethargy and loss of appetite characteristic of the procedure, Pat was also suffering a brain infection from toxoplasmosis, a pre-existing condition. This condition was treated with antibiotic therapy, and Pat began a slow but steady recovery.

One year after the transplant, the cancer returned once again. Despite subsequent chemotherapy rounds, Pat learned early in the summer of 2000 that it had spread to her liver. Although she planned additional chemotherapy, Pat was not well enough to receive it. After spending several weeks in the hospital hoping to begin treatment again, Pat died at home in August 2000.


Through her treatment, Pat was supported by a wide variety of friends and family. When she was first diagnosed, Pat was referred to group therapy, but there were no support groups for women with ovarian cancer. She was the first candidate in her treatment protocol, and she spoke with the other women who joined her as time passed. But no group existed for her, so she created her own.

Friends scheduled their time off to visit her in chemotherapy, wrapping their Christmas presents while she was in treatment, driving her to sessions and blood tests. When Pat returned home after her bone marrow treatment, friends and family took shifts staying nights, days and weekends, as necessary. In her last battle, they sat with her in the hospital, and finally at home.

This special community is not available to everyone with cancer. Pat had a wide variety of friends and her spirited battle against cancer drew them closer to her and to each other. Not everyone has a similar community or such support. In her memory, Pat's Friends want to bring the same support to other women, their families and friends battling cancer. Contributions to the Patricia Cronin Foundation to Fight Ovarian Cancer will be dedicated to funding support groups and other efforts to treat women living with cancer.


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