A hidden cancer brought to light by unusual circumstances

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    Kelly Collevechio with her twins

    Kelly Collevechio with her twins

    Kelly Collevechio and her husband, Jim, were getting ready to start a family when she received a Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer diagnosis. She has the word “faith” tattooed on her wrist to remind her that everything happens for a reason.

    “I got married at 26, I thought I was too young to start a family, but my husband wanted to start right away, and he had to talk me into it, and luckily he did,” said Collevechio. 

    They tried to conceive a child for six months, and eventually, were referred to a fertility specialist.

    “And one test led to another test, led to another test and they found a mass on my ovary.”

    Collevechio was told not to worry; nobody expected there to be a problem. But after surgery, she found out that the mass was abnormal, and that she needed to see an oncologist.

    “I was speechless,” she recalled, of receiving the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. “I was healthy. The only symptom I had was my pants weren’t fitting as well. That could have been the first symptom, bloating. Other than that, I felt fine.”

    Collevechio is a nurse, she had had regular primary care and OBGyn check-ups prior to her diagnosis.

    After being diagnosed, she and her husband still had the hope that they could start a family. Her oncologist and her fertility doctor worked together, and decided that she had enough time to harvest eggs before she started chemo.

    “We did chemo for six months, six rounds,” said Collevechio. “It took a few months to get my strength back. I was weak, I gained a lot of weight, I felt unhealthy.”

    After chemo was done, about a year after she finished her last round, she was cleared by her oncologist and fertility specialist to pursue In Vitro Fertilization. Her fertility team wasn’t sure what the future would hold for her, so they decided to transfer two embryos.

    “They both took, and here they are, two beautiful babies,” said Collevechio with a big smile.

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    Brielle Marie. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

    James Thomas and Brielle Marie were born in October of 2015, two healthy babies at over six pounds each.

    “I would do it all over again if I could, ” said Collevechio. But that won’t be an option for her.

    During her C-section, a doctor found new masses on her uterus, and did biopsies, which turned out to be abnormal. Six weeks after her babies were born, she had a radical hysterectomy.

    “Some of the fluids they biopsied during that surgery came back abnormal too. There is a chance I will need more treatment.”

    Despite everything she has been through, Collevechio keeps a positive attitude. She says she is always surrounded and supported by her family. And she feels grateful.

    “Look at these two babies – I am so lucky,” she said. “If I hadn’t tried to start a family at this time, I would have not detected the cancer. And here I was able to keep my uterus just long enough to do the IVF, and have two beautiful babies.”

    This weekend, Collevechio and her family will participate in the “Sandy Sprint” in Philadelphia – a big fundraising and awareness event hosted by the Sandy Rollman Ovarian Cancer Foundation.

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    James Thomas. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

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