Trees of Hope and MOCA: Katie's Story

Updated: December 09, 2019 06:22 PM

Ovarian cancer took the lives of an Esko woman's mother and grandmother.


Katie Shannon doesn't remember her grandmother, Betty. "I was one month old when she died," the Esko grad told us. But she does treasure memories of her mother, Nancy.

"My mom made our dresses. She was a talented seamstress," she shared, pointing to a picture of herself and her sister in formal gowns.

Nancy Shannon was also an animal lover, avid fisher-woman, and compassionate CNA. The loving mom survived a bout with lung cancer. Then, when she was 51-years-old, she found out she had another kind. This time, it was ovarian.

"Her only symptom was bloating. She went in. And it was advanced. It had spread to her brain, her bones, and other organs. It was inoperable," Katie remembers.

And this time, it took her life. "It was really hard. Hard on my dad, on my sister, on all of us," Katie said. That was in 2005.

Fast forward to 2019, Katie has two kids and three dogs. The MRI tech is planning a wedding. So she's pretty busy.

But the fact that ovarian cancer runs in her family, isn't far from her mind. "It's always kind of there. It is a worry," she said.

With advice from her doctor, she started seeing a genetic counselor. And together, they've taken steps to really flesh out her family history.

"I did my initial genetic test in 2009," she remembers. It was a simple blood test. Thankfully, she tested negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, which are linked to a high risk of ovarian cancer.

Still, she will continue to check in with her care team, and be vigilant about any symptoms. "I just try and live a healthy lifestyle. And stay connected with a counselor. And make sure I'm doing what we need to for testing and things like that."

Just this year, she got involved with MOCA, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance. She heard the lift bridge was going to be lit teal. She made it a point to see it for herself.

"We watched the bridge light up with some other survivors. It was really cool," Katie said.

She also helped at the Light Duluth Teal Gala, which took place in September. And she figures this is her way of fighting for her family. "To be a part of the organization to spread awareness, and help survivors. And raise money for treatment, it helps me feel closer to my mom. I feel like I'm able to do something."

MOCA is raising money for research for an early detection test and a cure. 

For more information:

And you can donate to MOCA right on our website! Plus, we have the phone banks coming up at 5, 6, and 10pm on Monday.

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