From OHC, Specialists in the Treatment of Adult Cancers and Blood Disorders

September 21, 2021

Imagine going to the doctor with some abdominal pain. You’re not expecting the worst. Appendicitis and a hernia are ruled out and a blood test and chest X-ray are ordered. Upon receiving additional test results, your doctor immediately admits you to the hospital. That was the beginning of Kathleen Hendrixson’s journey with stage four ovarian cancer in 2018.

“I was shocked,” said Kathleen. “I entered the hospital at 6pm and the next morning I met Drs. Gubbi and Chua.” Kathleen’s primary care doctor had referred her to the cancer specialists he felt would be the best–Ajit Gubbi, DO, a gynecologic oncologist at OHC and Cynthia C. Chua, MD, one of OHC’s medical oncologists and hematologists. “I instantly knew I was in the right place with these doctors,” said Kathleen. “There was a human side to their personalities. They were knowledgeable and straightforward as they explained my plan of care, but they treated me like a person, not just a patient.”

“Much of the urgency for admitting Kathleen stemmed from the result of her CA-125 blood test,” explained Dr. Chua. Many women with ovarian cancer have high levels of the CA-125 (cancer antigen 125) protein in their blood. A normal value is less than 46 U/mL. Kathleen’s value was 1,200 U/mL. Dr. Chua recommended genetic testing and Kathleen also had an ascitic tap (removal of excess fluid) from her abdomen. “I started Kathleen on weekly chemotherapy to shrink her tumor prior to surgery,” said Dr. Chua. Dr. Gubbi performed a complete hysterectomy with comprehensive debulking (removal) of any visible cancer masses.

“Initially, I was nervous because I had seen what ovarian cancer did to my mother,” said Kathleen, who had tested positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation. “For four years, my mother had been in-and-out of chemo all the time because her remission only lasted two-to-three months. But, then I told myself I had two choices: curl up in the corner or don’t let this get to me as I have a lot of living to do.”

From March through June 2018, Kathleen received weekly chemotherapy treatments. Following her hysterectomy and comprehensive cancer debulking in June, Dr. Gubbi reported that the surgery to remove the cancer was successful. Kathleen remained on weekly chemotherapy through October 2018. Her CA-125 level came down to 6.7, and she has maintained that level to this day.

“I’m a firm believer that attitude affects healing,” said Kathleen. “All I wanted out of this was to live to be with my kids and grandkids. I’m thankful for all I have, but things aren’t important. My family is worth living for.”

Kathleen now feels like her old self. She credits an excellent support system, a team of highly-skilled and fast-acting doctors, and goal setting with getting her to that point. “My sons and daughters-in-law took care of me and the support from Pink Ribbon Girls with homemade meals and house cleaning was phenomenal,” said Kathleen. “I kept setting goals for myself. I wanted to make it to the next holiday or the next birthday.” Kathleen, who resides in Monroe, likes to remain active by walking her dog. She tried to push herself to walk a little further on each walk.

Kathleen continues to have follow-up visits with Drs. Gubbi and Chua. “Dr. Gubbi is a hoot and Dr. Chua is fun-loving,” said Kathleen. “They always reassured me that I was in the right place and that they would do all they could for me. My kids love them too!”

“Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is most often diagnosed in its late stages,” said Dr. Gubbi. “Symptoms can be subtle and often mistaken for more common conditions. It’s gratifying to treat a patient and deliver the news that we can no longer detect any active cancer.”

Kathleen exudes a fighting spirit. She wants others to know, “A cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean you’re going to die. You have to be brave and enjoy every day. You have to make the choice to beat it.”

This Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is an appropriate time to remind women about the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer, which can be found here: For more information on the advanced cancer treatments provided by OHC’s leading experts or to request a second opinion, call 1-888-649-4800 or visit

Top picture: Kathleen Hendrixson enjoyed a late summer trip to Lake Cumberland with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids.

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