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Cancer Survivor Gives Back

Q&A with Kate Alexander discussing her story of surviving cancer and giving back to Northside Hospital

Kate Alexander and her family. (September 2023)

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Kate Alexander. I am an Atlanta native, wife to my sweet husband, daughter to my loving parents, a full-time investment banker, and a cancer survivor… but my favorite title of all is Mom to my precious daughter.

Q: Can you tell us about your diagnosis and when you were diagnosed?

In August 2020, I was diagnosed with early-onset colorectal cancer. My golf ball-sized tumor was discovered during a colonoscopy, and I had surgery eight days later to remove the mass. The pathology reports indicated no signs of spreading and the surrounding lymph nodes were clear, so my medical team agreed that I required no further treatment. My diagnosis came as a complete shock because I was a healthy 32-year-old woman with no family history of colon cancer. The Northside Cancer Genetics Program later identified that I have MUTYH-associated polyposis, a genetic disorder that predisposes me to increased risk for colorectal cancer.

Q: What were your initial feelings and reactions to the news?

The week between my diagnosis and surgery was a whirlwind filled with fear, despair, shock, and confusion. I credit my medical team for encouraging me to take charge of my diagnosis and learn as much as possible so that I could be my own best advocate. It took a long time to unpack the trauma that unfolded in such a short period. With my genetic condition, routine surveillance will always be a big part of my life. My medical team closely monitors my health which gives me so much peace of mind, especially since I have a young child at home. Colonoscopies and endoscopies aren’t pleasant, but I like to joke that it’s the best nap in town!

Q: Was there a reason you chose Northside Hospital Cancer Institute for your treatment?

The continuity of care across the Northside network is truly exceptional. As a patient and now survivor, the level of communication between all my doctors is nothing short of extraordinary. To go from a cancer patient to a new mom in thirteen months was a miracle I never could have dreamed of!

Q: What was your time at Northside like? Did you feel comfortable with your team along the way? What were they like?

I spent about a week in the hospital recovering from my surgery. Unfortunately, visitors were not allowed because of the pandemic. It was such a lonely, isolating, and scary time. I deeply missed my family and friends, but my doctors and nurses made me feel so cared for and loved. I got a little stronger each day and every small milestone was celebrated. I was honestly nervous to go home, but the team helped me rebuild my confidence and encouraged me to keep fighting for my health every single day.

Q: Your gifts to the Northside Hospital Foundation Cancer Institute Fund support research, medical care and education, as well as providing support services such as transportation and lodging for cancer patients and their families. Having been through and surviving cancer, can you share why supporting this fund is important to you?

I feel deeply compelled to give back to the hospital that gave me so much. I was born here, I was treated for cancer here, I gave birth to a perfect baby girl here. I am forever grateful to the entire Northside team and I hope that my family will continue to support the Foundation for many years to come.

Q: What has life been like since beating cancer?

I like to say that getting cancer was one of the greatest things to happen to me. It was an invaluable lesson in compassion and humility. On the surface I looked like a happy and healthy young woman, but quietly I carried such a burden. It reminded me to spread kindness and treat others with empathy and respect; you never know what silent struggles others may bear. My priorities shifted instantly. Now my family and my health will always come first. I also realize that I am one of the lucky ones. I feel a deep responsibility to spread awareness about this disease and support the hospital that gave me a second chance.

Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you tell someone who has just recently been diagnosed with cancer?

Have hope. Give yourself the grace to grieve. Fight for yourself. Let your village love you and support you. Make sure your caretakers are also cared for; they carry an untold burden too. Take it one day at a time and celebrate every little victory along the way.

Click here to join us in impacting lives in our communities by learning more about Northside Hospital Cancer Institute and giving today!