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Stories: Derek and Katie

Using a loss to help find a cure

Losing a loved one to ovarian cancer is devastating. To help find a cure is inspirational. That’s how Derek Loeser and his wife, Katie Van Kessel, M.D., have chosen to remember Derek’s mom, Susan, after she passed away from ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer is virtually a hidden disease, with symptoms that are easily attributed to other medical conditions. In Susan’s case, her cancer had metastasized by the time it was discovered.

Like so many patients, Derek’s mom had lots of questions. Her search for answers led her to Saul Rivkin, M.D., a medical oncologist at Swedish and founder of the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer.

“The exceptional care my mom received from Saul and her entire team at Swedish allowed her to live with ovarian cancer for seven years,” says Derek. “It also became her motivation to help raise funds for ovarian cancer research and education.”

Derek and his entire family “inherited” that motivation. They know firsthand the importance of the Rivkin Center and its connection to Swedish, and have honored his mom’s legacy through their philanthropy and as members of the Founders Circle.

“I first met Saul when I did my rotation through the gynecologic oncology program at Swedish,” says Katie, a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology. “Shortly after my mother-in-law died, he asked us to sponsor their annual auction. My involvement with the Rivkin Center has grown, and I am proud to now serve on its board of directors.”

Derek and Katie understand the challenges of ovarian cancer. Although it is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, often affecting women in the prime of their lives, it doesn’t get as much attention or funding as other cancers.

“My mom was a vibrant, energetic woman—even after her diagnosis,” says Derek. “She swam a mile every day and was skiing a month before she died. If she were alive today, she would be advocating for more funding for education and emerging research.”

Today, there’s a lot of excitement in the research community about finding an early screening tool for ovarian cancer, improving treatments and for ultimately finding an immunization or cure. The Rivkin Center helps fund many of those efforts.

“My family history and the genes we inherited is why we are involved,” says Derek. “My mom’s experience is why our involvement—and the involvement of others—is so important. She knew something was wrong before she was diagnosed, but there was no test to speed up her diagnosis.”

Supporters like Derek, Katie—and you—are helping to build healthier futures for all women through research and education. 

The Rivkin Center funds leading-edge ovarian cancer research and educational programs for women in an effort to keep them healthy.

To learn more about how your gift is making a difference through the Rivkin Center, contact Jaclynn Rodriguez, Director of Development, at 206-215-2204 or Jaclynn.Rodriguez@swedish.org.