San Diego Health - Spring 2024


Th is spirit of giving back does not surprise her radiation oncologist Dr. Koka one bit. “Kelly has one of the most incredible attitudes of any patient I’ve met. Not only getting through her cancer, but what she’s doing now as a volunteer at Scripps Cancer Center,” she says. “We hear o ft en that people want to pay something forward, but they can’t always do that. Th ey can’t just take a 180-degree turn and do what they are passionate about. It’s remarkable to see the commitment Kelly has to doing just that. She le ft a very prestigious job, and now she’s putting all that drive and energy into her new passion to help others with breast cancer,” she continues. “I have had a few patients say that cancer was a gi ft , but Kelly truly means it. I have tremendous respect for her and what she’s doing.” O’Connor’s cancer journey changed the way she sees her life. “As a fellow cancer patient, I can do what the physicians can’t. Th ey do the most incredible job at Scripps—from the receptionists to the nurses to the doctors. Th ey became my friends, they hugged me, Dr. Koka put her hand on my shoulder and said, ‘You’re going to beat this; I believe it and you’re going to believe it,’” she says. “ Th ey lead the charge like a general leads a team into battle. But they don’t necessarily understand the emotions we feel as patients. It can be hard or confusing if we let it be, but it can also be simple if we have the right tools. By helping others, I have found a way to heal my broken heart.” To learn more about Scripps Cancer Center, visit

Th at impact inspired O’Connor to take her new passion for paying it forward another giant step further. She started a new company to share the lessons she learned to help cancer patients, their families and their employers to better understand what to expect during and a ft er treatment, and provide both a so ft landing from treatment and a positive launch to their new life.

“As long as I’m there, no one will go through it alone,” she says. “A lot of times, I’ll share my own experience and how I got through it. Th e minute they see me and see that I’m done. I'm healthy. I have hair. I'm smiling when I'm volunteering at the place most people want to run away from. It really transforms their outlook. It’s amazing the impact I have seen from this experience.”

O'Connor's journey has given her newfound purpose, to help other cancer patients and their families navigate treatment and to provide hope for the future.


Made with FlippingBook Ebook Creator