Gwen Carnegie – Finding Inspiration through Adversity

By Jen Roytz

Six years ago Gwen Carnegie was living the life of a typical 29-year-old. Managing a hunter jumper farm and chasing after her two-year old daughter, life was more or less normal. What a difference a few years can make. Today, the Massachusetts native is newly married to the man of her dreams, the mother of two daughters and a cancer survivor twice over.

It was on a trip home to visit her family that Gwen first felt the lump sitting just above her collarbone.

“As soon as I felt it, I knew something wasn’t right. It wasn’t painful and I hadn’t recently been sick,” Gwen recalled.

Doctors told her it was likely due to an infection and put her on an antibiotic regimen. The lump, however, did not go away so she sought out a second opinion.

“I saw a top head and neck specialist in Boston who reiterated that he believed the lump was due to an infection and that I should follow up with my GP once I returned home,” she said. “In my gut I just felt like the pieces weren’t fitting together so as soon as I returned to Lexington, I called Markey and requested an appointment with a Head and Neck Surgeon.”

Gwen met with Dr. Rony Aouad at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, who reviewed her scans and was alarmed by the presence of multiple enlarged lymph nodes and a mass on her thyroid. A biopsy confirmed thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, that was not the only diagnosis he made.

“Dr. Aouad met with me after my thyroidectomy and told me that although he successfully removed the mass on my thyroid, he had found a second type of completely unrelated cancer in my lymph nodes called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” she said

Thankfully, the team at Markey team acted fast. She endured eight rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 20 radiation sessions, then radioactive iodine ablation to address the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and then the Thyroid cancer.

“The comprehensive care that I received at Markey not only focused on treating my cancer but their team also saw me through some of the most challenging personal moments I have ever experienced,” said Gwen. “They helped me face the physical and emotional toll brought on by rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, and also provided me strength and courage as I struggled with my first marriage ending shortly after my diagnosis.”

Today, Gwen is a registered nurse and will complete her Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner degree from Duke University this summer.

“I was lucky to have amazing doctors who guided my treatment decisions, but I was truly inspired by the nurses who were by my side every step of the way. From my first chemo infusion, to every single follow up visit thereafter, they were such an integral part of my care. It was through this experience that I realized nursing was my calling. I hope that I am able to make that same difference in patient’s lives.”