Ovarian cancer patient hopes to spread awareness and ‘paint’ Roanoke teal

Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 10:12 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke woman is hoping to bring more awareness to ovarian cancer by sharing her own story of battling it twice.

Her name is Kim Huddleston and she hopes to ‘paint’ the town teal—the color worn to raise awareness about ovarian cancer. By wearing teal and sharing her story, she hopes she will spark a conversation raising awareness.

Going to chemotherapy every week is a part of Kim Huddleston’s weekly routine. “Statically, I am that one in 73 (about) women diagnosed with ovarian cancer,” she said.

Huddleston‘s story begins when she was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer December 17, 2017. It was a week before Christmas; she was 54 years old, working full-time, and raising her teenage son.

“Being that I was widowed at the time of my diagnosis, I was so afraid that he would not have a mother either,” said Huddleston.

She later met Dr. David Iglesias, a gynecological oncologist at Carilion Clinic. He has overseen Huddleston’s treatments from the beginning.

“Oftentimes, it is considered a more silent cancer and part of that is just in these cancers sometimes are present in a later stage,” said Dr. David Iglesias a gynecological oncologist at Carilion Clinic.

Huddleston says she has always known her story wouldn’t end with cancer because she knew she had a lot to fight for.

In 2018, doctors called saying she was cancer-free.

But in 2019, doctors called back and said the cancer came back.

“The symptoms can be very vague, nonspecific,” said Dr. Iglesias. “Only about 15% of patients are diagnosed with ovarian cancer when it’s at the earliest, most curable stage, and so really 70 to 80% of patients. A higher can be diagnosed with a more advanced stage disease. Which makes it a little bit harder to treat.”

Dr. Iglesias also helps lead ovarian cancer research, new forms of treatments and clinical trials for patients like Huddleston.

“Treatment often includes a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, and some for her were one of the few surgical subspecialties that follows a patient kind of throughout their entire journey. We do the surgery, and we also administer chemotherapy,” said Dr. Inglesias. “So, we get to really develop relationships, really deep and meaningful relationships with patients from their initial diagnosis and walk through them along or walk with them through the journey that they have.”

“Mine is high-grade stage three, which means it has metastasized outside of the ovaries and into the peritoneal cavity or omentum,” said Huddleston.

Even after losing her biggest support system, her mother, to cancer while still battling cancer herself in 2021— Huddleston says she chooses to live life by faith.

“I get out of bed, and I throw my hands up and say thank you. I can’t do this. I beat you and then I look for an affirmation and I post it,” said Huddleston. “Ovarian cancer has a mind of its own. It can travel to my brain. It could travel to my lungs; it could travel to my breasts. It could travel to my liver --like --I don’t know. I don’t know. There’s a lot that can happen. But I have to know today is a good day.”

Huddleston says her fight is not easy. She has good days and bad. But it’s her support system that has made a big difference. Especially, others who are also fighting the same fight. She is a part of the ovarian cancer support organization called the Clearity Foundation.

“We’re all on different treatments. Our bodies are all individual. Nobody knows how we’re going to react. We can only hope that the treatments work,” said Huddleston.

To help bring hope, Huddleston works to bring awareness to ovarian cancer alongside the Clealrity Foundation.

Together they encourage women to listen to their bodies, stay on top of new research and treatments, as well as support each other.

“Every day, it’s become my life. Actually, I live with this disease. And I can be an enemy with it or I can be friends with it. And I have to do what works for me. And this is what’s working --is getting my story out there. Raising awareness, getting my doctor involved in raising awareness, and having that support from the community,” said Huddleston.

“I always recommend to all women just to be aware of the patterns of their body, you know, the symptoms you’re experiencing, and for something that just doesn’t seem right, especially if it’s in that category of symptoms we discussed ---bring it up with a primary care doctor,” said Dr. Iglesias.

Huddleston hopes to see the Star City turn teal, to inspire those battling ovarian cancer or who have won the battle, to know that they’re not alone.

“The survival rate is five years I was told at the time. I’m hitting the five-year mark, but I don’t feel like I’m checking out yet,” said Huddleston.

Huddleston thanks her son, friends, co-workers, doctors, and nurses for their continued support.

“I couldn’t have done it without you. The support and just knowing that every day when I get up is another day that I have. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. I don’t know what the cancer is going to do. Because I’m up against something much bigger than I am. But there’s something much bigger above,” she said.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness month is every September.

If you’re interested in learning more about ovarian cancer clinical trials and others available in the area, you can visit the Carilion Clinic’s Gynecological Oncology program website.

To learn more about the symptoms of ovarian cancer or how you can support ovarian cancer patients, visit our previous coverage and stories here.