A director at a major insurance company, a triathlete, a lover of travel and the outdoors, Tavia Hopfensperger is a go-getter. She is passionate about taking charge of life and living it to the fullest. These qualities were put to the test when Tavia was dealt a devastating diagnosis.
In March 2009, feeling tired and uncomfortable, Tavia made an appointment at a clinic near her home on the outskirts of Appleton. Convinced it was nothing more than another case of low iron levels, she figured she would be in and out of the clinic quickly and on her way to the airport, where she needed to catch a flight for work. However, the attentive resident physician on staff was suspicious Tavia’s symptoms were a sign of something much more serious. Tests revealed Tavia was suffering from Stage 3C ovarian cancer.
“I didn’t even know ovarian cancer existed,” said Tavia. “There is no history of it in my family.”
Tavia’s physician in the Fox Valley referred her to the area’s only gynecologic oncologist at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers in Green Bay. Her oncologist’s team not only offered the best possible treatment options, but they were known for their expert coordination of treatments, tests, routine appointments and everything in between.
“My oncologist and his team were my saving grace, and they were right here, close to home,” said Tavia.
Tavia knew she wanted to take an aggressive approach to her treatment and was further reassured by her oncologist’s eagerness to create a personalized treatment plan, unique to Tavia’s needs.
“I was able to make treatment what I wanted it to be,” said Tavia. “Everyone at the cancer center – not just doctor – seemed to know my story. I knew they were genuinely concerned about me. I wasn’t just another patient.”
With her husband, Rob, at her side, Tavia underwent surgery and a particularly aggressive round of chemotherapy to wipe the cancer out of her system. She maintained a steady focus on regaining her health, but also on making sure Rob received the support he needed.
“I wanted people to pay attention to him and what he needed as well,” said Tavia. “The cancer center did that for him ten-fold. I remember one of the specialists talking with us about what my treatments would entail and she looked my husband right in the eyes and said very comfortingly, ‘I know it sounds really bad, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.’”
Following treatment, Tavia participated in a cancer clinical trial through HSHS St. Vincent Cancer Research Institute. It involved receiving a small dose of chemotherapy once a month for a year, to determine if it could help prevent her cancer from returning. Tavia’s participation in this clinical trial could help set the standard for treatment protocols for patients affected by ovarian cancer in the future.
Today, Tavia remains cancer-free and suffers from no side effects from the aggressive chemo treatments she received.
“I’m actually in the best shape of my life.”
She participates in triathlons once a year; loves spending time outdoors with her husband, their children and dogs; and remains forever grateful to oncologist and his team at HSHS St. Vincent Hospital Cancer Centers.