A Purposeful Life
Annette Leal Mattern
Annette Leal Mattern never imagined that her life would be dedicated to helping women fight their battles with cancer. Once an active corporate executive who managed multi-billion dollar high-tech programs, she became disabled and unemployable after two debilitating cancer diagnoses. This wife, grandmother, board member, foundation president, author, blogger and public speaker also is one of the most passionate and driven women you’ll ever meet.
Initially diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1987, Annette moved to Arizona almost six years ago and subsequently was diagnosed with a recurrence by Dr. Mike Janicek, a gynecologic oncologist at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center. In 2009, she was diagnosed with a second primary cancer, breast cancer, for which she also is being treated at Scottsdale Healthcare by Dr. Patrick Donovan, medical oncologist and hematologist.
Annette has endured nine major abdominal surgeries and undergone rigorous chemotherapy treatments. As a result, her quality of life has diminished; it’s impacted her physical and cognitive abilities and left her with residual pain, neuropathy, osteoporosis and fatigue. Despite the severity of her side effects, she’s quick to point out they are problems due to the disease, not the care she is receiving.
She feels Scottsdale Healthcare offers her the best resources in oncology, along with a genuine concern for her quality of life, and doctors and nurses who care deeply about her ability to keep going. “Everyday is a challenge, but I try to live a life of gratitude,” Mattern said. “I have lived longer than most women with my disease history, partially attributable to the things I’ve learned about managing my life within the constraints of the disease. These are the tools I’ve discovered at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center.”
Annette says the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center is a model of cancer care and an example of how a community-based healthcare system conforms to the needs of the people it serves.
“Your family loves you, but they don’t have all the tools they need to deal with the range of emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis,” she said. “The clinically educated specialists at the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center offer the resources necessary to deal with the fear, anger, shock, and bewilderment which patients and their families are sure to encounter.”
Currently the president-elect of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Board of Directors, Annette also co-founded the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Arizona in 2008. She lives a life of great purpose and hardly a day goes by that she doesn’t speak with a patient. Each morning, she wakes up with the attitude that she’s alive for a reason and that someone will need her.
Her latest project involves brining ovarian cancer survivors together with medical students at the University of Arizona. The goal of this very powerful exercise is to show these future doctors the implications of doctors not listening to women who complained of symptoms that were early indicators of the disease and thus improve the current diagnosis rate for ovarian cancer.
Annette offers the following advice to anyone who was recently diagnosed with cancer. “Pick a medical team based on performance. Be sure they listen to you and are treating the person – not the disease. My experience at Scottsdale Healthcare is that of being the central focus of a system created to heal me.” And perhaps her most important advice, “Do all you can to enhance your return to wellness, and never lose hope!”
If you’d like more information on the doctors and services available at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, please call 480-323-3000, or log on to www.shc.org.
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