In September 2015, Kelsey Saty’s life turned upside down. She had just found out she had brain cancer and would need to undergo an invasive surgery to remove a tumor.
Fast forward to today, the Snoqualmie resident is fundraising for her third Seattle Brain Cancer Walk and is 24 weeks pregnant with her first child.
“I’m so grateful for every day,” Saty said, adding that she and her husband are expecting a little boy in August. “I’m so grateful to be cancer free right now and I’m so thankful for modern medicine.”
Saty attributes her good health to Swedish Medical Center and the expertise of Dr. Charles S. Cobb, a neurosurgeon who operated on her only 11 days after she started having symptoms of the stage 2 oligodendroglioma she was diagnosed with.
And it’s because of Swedish’s care Saty jumped at the opportunity to participate in her first Swedish-sponsored Seattle Brain Cancer Walk in May 2016, only six months after the removal of her tumor.
“I just hope, with the walk, I can raise awareness,” she said. “If I can reach one person that has gone through something similar, who can relate to me, and find the walk through me, then it’s a victory.”
This year, Saty decided to join a planning committee to help raise awareness for the 11th annual walk. It will be her third walk since having brain cancer and she hopes to raise the most funds yet. So far, her fundraising page has just under $1,000. All of the proceeds will support ongoing research and clinical trials at the Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment.
The national fundraising walk was founded in 2008 and has raised more than $5 million for brain cancer research.
Saty’s team, named “Bye Felicia” in honor of her tumor’s name “Felicia,” is open to all who want to join. The walk will take place Sunday, May 6 at the Fisher Pavilion in Seattle.
When asked what prompted Saty to name her tumor, she said her mom’s friend had a benign tumor that she named. Saty said while she initially thought it was strange, the woman told Saty that naming the tumor gave her closure and peace of mind.
“I have a very sassy personality and I had not named it going into surgery and the first thing I said to my mom in recovery was I told her it was named Felicia,” she recalled.
At that time, #ByeFelicia had been trending on Twitter. The phrase originated from the 1995 film “Friday,” which, according to Ice Cube, an actor in the film, is a term meant “to get anyone out of your face,” according to an April 26, 2015 People article. The phrase resurfaced as the title of R&B-pop singer Jordin Sparks’ first mixtape.
“Even still today when I see anybody say, #ByeFelicia, I’m like, ‘Bye, Felicia and don’t come back’,” Saty said. “You have to make light of what you can, with the circumstances you’re dealt.”
Saty first learned she had “Felicia” after experiencing flashing lights, a bad headache and numbing in her arm and lips. She was at work (in the health care field) and immediately had a nurse come check on her. Her blood pressure was high and the paramedics who were in her building for a client told her to go to the hospital right away. It could be a stroke, they told her.
Saty felt silly for going to the hospital for what she thought was just a “really bad migraine” but after doctors performed a CT scan, they told her she was right to come in.
“They said they found something in my brain,” she said. “They wern’t sure what it was and needed to do an MRI. We were there for hours.”
Doctors returned only to tell her they didn’t have a neurologist to call to review the scan. She awoke the next morning to a voicemail from a neurosurgeon.
At 27-years-old, recently married, Saty was panicked. She stayed home from work and her husband helped her call doctors every day until she found Dr. Cobbs.
“We went to see Dr. Cobbs and I had six family members with me … and he came in and said you do have a brain tumor and we’re going to take it out, we’re going to remove it,” she said. “Very nonchalant. We started crying – you never expect something like that is going to happen to you. But Dr. Cobbs just sat there for hours, answering question after question. He was so calm and willing to answer everything.”
After surgery on her right frontal lobe, which left her with three metal plates on her skull, she was discharged from the hospital two days later. Saty said it took her about two months to fully recover as she was on quite a bit of medication for the first three weeks.
“It’s amazing how your body can start healing,” she said, noting that doctors caught the tumor early enough so she didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.
Although she feels normal today, Saty continues to see her neurologist every six months to ensure she remains cancer free. Despite no definitive studies, there is a risk hormones from being pregnant may trigger another brain tumor growth, but Saty said it’s worth it.
“I’ve always wanted to have kids so I wasn’t going to let that deter me,” she said.
Saty’s pregnancy will also be a fairly normal one if she can get approval from her neurologist to have a vaginal birth. The one concern from her obstetrician is whether her pushing would impact cranial pressure. If not, her next option is a cesarean section.
But Saty is just thankful she was even able to get pregnant.
“I could have had to go through treatment that wouldn’t have allowed me to get pregnant,” she said. “… It could have been a lot worse.”