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A Day in the Life: Kate Petrovic

Features

Kate Petrovic at home in Louisburgh with her dog Oscar, a Wheaten Terrier. Pic Conor McKeown

Factfile
Name: Kate Petrovic
From: Louisburgh via Buckinghamshire
Age: 63
Occupation: Horticulturalist

I’M not an early-morning person but I’d normally get up around 9am and I’d have a coffee or a tea to kick-start the day. I don’t eat breakfast but have a brunch around midday: it’s usually granola with fresh fruit and yogurt and there are herbal teas throughout the day.
I have always been a very active person and since I moved to Louisburgh 15 years ago, I have been involved with the tidy towns and various community activities. However, since I was diagnosed with sarcoma cancer, my life has literally been taken over by scans and my own research on complementary therapies for this rare form of cancer.
I was first diagnosed with a tumour in October 2017 and had my nephrectomy – one kidney removed – in Galway University Hospital in December 2017. Ironically, I am only one of 200 people in the world who has a  Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) presentation as a primary presentation since it was  first discovered 100 years ago. The thing about sarcoma cancer is that it is resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy but hospitals still want to threat you with these therapies. They use the therapy to shrink the tumour in order to make it operable. In June 2018 they also found secondary nodules on my lungs and I had an operation in January 2019.
The main problem in this country is that we don’t have a sarcoma specialist. We did have one, Dr Alexia Bertuzzi, but the HSE did not renew her contract. This issue has been raised in the Dáil and the Seanad and the HSE has been strongly criticised for allowing this to happen. She had treated lots of patients who are still NED (no evidence of disease) …. You can never go into remission with sarcoma, you can only be diagnosed as NED.
I have always been a very outdoorsy person so I make sure to take a break by mid-afternoon from my research or discussions on various forums, to bring Oscar, my Wheaten Terrier, for a big walk along some of the beaches around Louisburgh. My head can become fried from all the information I am taking in so it is great to get the salt air of the ocean into my lungs. I have also attended a private clinic in London, the Royal Marsden as well as going regularly to see a herbalist, Patrick Murphy, in Tuam.
I take a cocktail of natural supplements including high doses of Vitamin C, Sea Kelp, Flaxseed Oil and Curcumin. You see the arsenal of chemotherapy drugs for sarcoma is very small because it is such a rare form of cancer.
I’m feeling great at the moment and I’m still active with my community work. The last day, for example, I went off painting new picnic benches for Carramore Beach in the afternoon. A group of us always meet on a Thursday evening to decide on our plans. They may involve painting a derelict building or weeding and planting in the various flower beds around the village and on the outskirts. We also paint street furniture. I like to help my elderly neighbours too.
I eat my main meal around 8pm and I usually have a huge salad with feta cheese. I like to read to relax then and it is usually stories based around a historical fact. I watch some television also, mainly travel or of historical interest.
While I went through hell back at the beginning after I was diagnosed, I am not going there again. I feel in great form and am very proactive in ensuring the quality of my life is as best as it can be even though I have Stage Four cancer which is incurable. Of course, my adult children, who live away from Co Mayo – and my family and friends – have been very supportive.
My next projects are to get a machine which can alkalise water. I believe that this helps to balance your body’s pH levels since cancer cells thrive in acidic environments. I also want to get ‘the Greek blood test’ done which helps diagnose what chemotherapeutic agents help the treatment be more targeted and provide a palliative dimension.
As you can imagine, each night I head to bed ready to take on new challenges the following day. I am determined to make the best of the time I have left.

In conversation with Áine Ryan   

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I’d be peripatetic, I would keep travelling ending up somewhere sunny and warm

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I love being outside in Mother Nature

Where’s your favourite place in the world?
My father’s family was from Montenegro and there’s something special about the mountains and sea there

What makes you angry?
Injustice, particularly cruelty to animals

Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Greek feta cheese, organic yogurt and lots of fruit and vegetables

What makes you nervous?
Scanxiety! Waiting on medical results

What’s your favourite TV show?
Channel Four’s ‘A Place in the Sun’

Who’s the most famous person you’ve met?
Superman, the late Christopher Reeve

What do you miss most about being a kid?
The innocence of childhood

What’s your most prized possession?
My dog, Oscar. He’s a Wheaten Terrier, a very old Irish breed

Describe yourself in three words?
Active, driven and lazy, at the same time.

How do you unwind?
Walking the beautiful beaches of west Mayo with Oscar