Kathleen - who is married to Melbourne sport science coordinator and rehabilitation coach, Alex Sakadjian - was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2017 at just 30-years-old. Kathleen is also a regular panellist on AFL Game Day providing injury updates.
In a moving interview with Channel 7 to be aired before the game between Melbourne and Sydney, Kathleen and Alex said they naturally thought the worst when Kathleen received the diagnosis.
“We’d just been married, we were young, we bought a house, we started up a business, the world is our oyster kind of thing,” Kathleen said.
“One day in the shower, I felt a lump on the side of my breast. I called Alex, he said maybe you should text ‘Zee’ [Melbourne club doctor Zeeshan Arain].
“[Zee] said to me it’s probably nothing to worry about, you’re 30-years-old, which is quite young, you’ve got no family history, but we should probably take this serious.
“Zee and I have a really good relationship and we joke a lot. But to hear him on the phone be that serious and to be quite upset himself delivering the news was quite overwhelming.
“Life kind of flashes in front of you, you get this feeling in your stomach where you feel really, really ill.”
Husband Alex said he also struggled with the news initially.
“It was tough obviously. But I probably didn’t get really emotional until I was on the phone talking to her parents,” Alex said.
“You’ve got to get the words out… and I can’t imagine what it’s like on the other end of the phone to the people that you’re telling as well.”
While still processing the life-changing news, Kathleen’s spirits were lifted after a conversation with club head physio Sam Pietsch the next day.
“It’s funny, the only time I actually got emotional; I was meant to be in here [at the club] the next day and I called Sam Pietsch, the head physio, and said ‘I just want to tell you what’s happening,” Kathleen said.
“He was like, my wife’s an oncologist and she’s here to help in whatever way we can and to just to let you know we’ve had a friend that’s gone through this 18 months ago, she’s doing really well and is pregnant with her first child now.
“It was probably just a bit of a throwaway line by Sam, but I actually clung to that and I still remember that story, I remember it just filled me with so much hope.”
From that point on, Kathleen faced the battle with breast cancer head on, doing everything in her power to get through her chemotherapy treatment.
“We’ve been dealt some pretty crappy cards, but we’re lucky, so let’s just do absolutely everything in our power to get through this and stay positive,” Kathleen said.
“I just kept telling myself [during chemotheraphy] I’m embracing all of these symptoms. I don’t mind having them because, ultimately the chemotherapy is helping me to beat this.
“For other women who are going through the same thing, our story is just one of so many, but ours is a positive one, I’ve come out with a positive ending and I hope that if there are any other ladies out there who have just been diagnosed, that they can see this and they can draw some kind of hope.”