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Keeping the message alive

Cancer foundation to honor survivor who beat ovarian cancer even though it was detected in its most advanced state.

May 09, 2008|By Brianna Bailey

When Costa Mesa resident Barbara Kraiss began having problems with swelling in one of her legs in 2003, she simply thought she had a blood clot; but her son, a vascular surgeon, thought it could be something more serious.

Kraiss’ son recommended she see a gynecological oncologist, who eventually diagnosed her with stage IV ovarian cancer.

“I was shocked, because I felt fine — I had few of the symptoms associated with the disease,” Kraiss said.

Stage IV ovarian cancer is the most advanced state of the disease and carries with it a five-year survival rate of about 17%, according to the American Cancer Society.

Kraiss has almost beat the odds nearly five years after her diagnosis and said she feels great.

Most women don’t even receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer until they reach stage III, because they experience few symptoms and accurate testing doesn’t exist to catch the disease in its early stages, Kraiss said.

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“Today I’m on a mission because I feel women don’t know how much a gynecological oncologist can have on their survival.”

Kraiss is one of numerous cancer survivors or patients still in treatment involved in the planning of the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation’s third annual Faces of Courage Benefit Brunch, 8:30 a.m. today at the Balboa Bay Club.

The treatment the foundation provides is valuable to patients like Kraiss, she said, because there are only about 1,000 gynecological oncologists in the United States.

“We’re so lucky here because we have three gynecological oncologists right on our front door,” Kraiss said.

The Newport Beach-based Women’s Cancer Research Foundation is staffed with three volunteer gynecological oncologists. Proceeds from today’s event will go to fund cancer research and to recruit more physicians to the foundation.

“Barbara has an advanced stage of cancer and had a very poor prognosis, but she is doing well on treatment and has a lot to be thankful on this Mother’s Day,” said Keri Gee Semmelman, spokeswoman for the foundation. “She’s an inspiration for all of us.”

One of the reasons Kraiss was attracted to the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation is its focus on better research of gynecological cancer, she said.

“It’s something I can do that is relevant to what I’ve been through,” she said.

Kraiss, a mother of two and grandmother of six, has worked with the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation since attending the organization’s first benefit brunch three years ago.

Since her diagnosis, Kraiss has undergone two surgeries, radiation therapy and several rounds of chemotherapy.

Kraiss has almost finished yet another series of treatments, and blood tests show she’s doing well.

She said she owes her life to the support of family and friends, as well as good medical care from the Women’s Cancer Research Foundation.

Kraiss will spend time with her two sons this Mother’s Day weekend and said surviving cancer has made her appreciate the holidays more.

“When you realize that you might not be here without the treatment options I’ve had, it’s wonderful to enjoy Christmas and Easter and Mother’s Day,” she said.


BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at brianna.bailey@latimes.com.

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