Giving Back to a Teacher in Need
- Ellen DeGeneres, 61, rewards a teacher—who has been teaching kindergarten from the hospital during her ovarian cancer treatment—with some huge surprises on her show.
- Kelly Klein, a Falcon Heights, Minn. is moved to tears during a touching tribute that the show made featuring past and current students from Klein’s 30-year run as a teacher. “She was full of energy and made you want to come to school,” one of her students says.
- Maintaining a positive outlook is crucial while going through advanced stage cancer. “We know actually, from good studies, that emotional health, quality of life, is associated with survival,” Dr. Chase, a gynecologic oncologist, tells SurvivorNet.
- PARP inhibitors are a promising new class of drugs for ovarian cancer treatment that work best in women who have a genetic mutation called BRCA.
Klein goes on to say that her doctor estimates that she has 10-15 years. “Luckily, the district granted me the distance learning position for kindergarten at my school,” Klein says, adding, “and I thought, I can do this.” Klein has to spend hours in the hospital for treatment and teaches while killing time. “What better way than to do that with 5-year-olds.”
DeGeneres then reveals a sweet surprise, something the show is know for, and says that they found some special people in the cheery teacher’s life from over the past 30 years. “We tracked down some current and former students to see if they had anything to say to you.” A video montage begins with some uplifting music. “I think Ms. Klein is a once-in-a-lifetime teacher,” one young student says. Another student adorably says that “she’s the kind of teacher that you accidentally call mom.” A grown student says that “she was full of energy and “made you want to come to school.” Klein is featured side-by-side with her special video tribute, in her red sweater with matching nails, wiping tears off her smiling face.
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DeGeneres then tells Klein that she is getting $10,000 from Shutterfly for a dream vacation wherever she and her family would like to go. And the surprises don’t stop there, as the host also announces that the company will be covering another $10,000 of her medical bills. Klein, with her mouth open, expresses her shock. “Oh my gosh, Ellen, I’m speechless. And that never happens!”
Staying Positive Through Cancer
While some may not be as lucky to make it on The Ellen Show, it is crucial to stay as positive as possible while going through cancer or any difficult time, and hopefully Kelly Klein’s story encourages you to keep pushing through and doing the things you love, which in Klein’s case, is teaching children.
Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecologic oncologist from Arizona Oncology, tells SurvivorNet about the importance of a strong emotional health. “We know actually, from good studies, that emotional health, quality of life, is associated with survival,” she says. “Meaning, better quality of life is associated with better survival, better outcomes.” Dr. Chase says that your “physical well-being” and “your social environment” are also some things to work on making better, as all of these things “can impact your survival.”
Promising Drugs for Ovarian Cancer
There have been some promising developments over recent years with PARP inhibitors, which are drugs used to treat women with advanced ovarian cancer who may have had a recurrence after earlier treatment. These drugs prevent cancer cells from repairing their damaged DNA, causing the cells to die rather than spread. However, these new drugs also can have serious side effects.
Dr. Lynn Parker from Norton Cancer Institute tells SurvivorNet about the pros and cons of using this new class of drugs. “PARP inhibitors are expensive, but there are ways to access those medications.” Dr. Parker explains that they are able to get these drugs for most of their patients either through support from the drug companies, “or through charity funds and our hospital system.” Most importantly, she believes they are safe, overall. “But like with any medication, they have potential toxicities or side effects. So I think that as a patient being aware of what is possible is important.”
Dr. Parker talks about stamina activity. “I do think that plays a role, but I do think that because there are different doses that can be utilized and looking at the timing of when you’re using it, again, if you’ve just completed chemotherapy, you may be more fatigued or weak than you would be in a few months.” She typically gives patients a lower dose of PARPs for the first few months after chemotherapy and then works them up to a higher dose.
Weighing out the options and what is best for you is something to discuss with your doctor.
How Do PARPs Work?
Dr. David Engle, a gynecologic oncologist from Baptist Medical Group in Memphis, Tenn. tells SurvivorNet how these PARP drugs work and what type of patients they work best on. “PARP inhibitors work on a group of ovarian cancer patients that had a genetic predisposition for their cancer. Oftentimes, these patients are BRCA, which stands for the breast-ovarian cancer gene, either 1 or 2. These are who we initially defined the PARP inhibitors would work best on.”
All ovarian cancer patients these days are offered genetic testing. “Up to 25% of ovarian cancers can potentially be inherited from a gene you inherited from one of your parents.” Dr. Engle explains what the term “maintenance” means in the cancer world, “meaning you had your ovarian cancer, you went into remission, meaning no visible sign of cancer, but unfortunately, the cancer came back … after you were treated again with IV chemotherapy agents, when we got to the point with no visible disease or minimal disease, then the oncologist actually had an option of using these PARP inhibitors as a maintenance. And the purpose of that is to maintain this progression-free survival status, meaning to keep that cancer beat away or to try and help prevent it from recurring so quickly.”
PARP Inhibitors During COVID
Dr. Ramez Eskander, a gynecologic oncologist from UC San Diego tells SurvivorNet about the benefits of PARP inhibitors during COVID. “Incorporating PARP inhibitors during the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity because these are oral pills, and oral pills might prevent someone from having to come into an infusion center to get an intravenous administration of medication.”
Although Dr. Eskander says that he hasn’t personally had to transition a patient off of one treatment onto a PARP specifically to avoid them coming into the infusion center, it is still an incredible option for patients to be able to take oral pills in the comfort of their own home.