Kristy Puetz has survived medical events that could easily sideline most people: ovarian cancer — two recurrences — liver and intestine metastases, bowel obstructions and invasive surgeries.
But none of that defines Puetz.
"When this all started for me in 2005, I told myself I wasn't going to let this change my life," said Puetz, of St. Charles, last week while sipping coffee at a local hangout.
Sure, the deadly disease changed her perspective.
For example, she's grateful for closer connections with loved ones.
But, Puetz says, "I don't want people to feel sorry for me and I don't want to feel sorry for myself."
Instead, as chemotherapy — with remission in mind — continues, she takes life as it comes and looks forward to summer boating and camping, two of her favorite activities to enjoy with family and friends.
She is surrounded by an extended support system, including her significant other, Mike Miller, and his daughter Kristin, her parents, Dan and Susan Puetz, of Plainview; two brothers, Steve, of Rollingstone, and Mike, of St. Charles; and sister Jamie, of Plainview.
More people need to know about ovarian cancer, Puetz says.
She found a lump on her collarbone, knew it was strange, but thought it could wait and delayed getting a biopsy until after a trip. The lump, it turned out, was caused by ovarian cancer.
There will be 23,000 new cases of ovarian, primary-peritoneal and fallopian-tube cancers diagnosed this year, says Karin Goodman, a Mayo Clinic ovarian-cancer nurse practitioner. Ovarian cancer will kill 15,000 women, Goodman said.
That sobering data means women with ovarian cancer must speak on behalf of those who do not survive. Goodman said it's also important to participate in research, when possible.
Puetz, a Mayo Clinic physical therapy technician who works with patients in sports medicine, wears a wig to work to keep patients' attention on their own situations instead of her hair loss, from chemotherapy.
But she has found a surprising twist to wearing the hairpiece.
When she glances in the mirror, the wig gives her a conscious and subconscious impression of wellness that she believes help her heal.
Puetz continues living life to its fullest.If she's feeling well and gets an invitation to a party, it's likely she'll show up.
"It's just been an amazing journey. I've met so many people, and the support that I've had, and the nurses on (Mayo's) Gonda 10, are just so absolutely wonderful," she said. "…It's pretty amazing that I've made it eight years. And that has to do with a great support system; family, friends and my health-care team."
• A Spring Fling Expo is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Rochester Recreation Center, 21 Elton Hills Drive N.W. Includes educational information, race packets and presence of "Ladies of sTeal" support group (which meets monthly at Hope Lodge).
• The Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance Spring Fling Diva Dashfundraiser for ovarian cancer research is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sunday at Jefferson Elementary, 1201 10th Ave. N.E. in Rochester.
• Be aware of common symptoms of ovarian cancer. Some are easily confused with normal daily functions, and include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary symptoms, such as increased urgency or frequency.
"If you have any of these symptoms almost daily for three weeks or more, take action," says the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance.