Southwest resident Katie Muldoon is a lover and a fighter.
Diagnosed with terminal breast cancer, Muldoon, 60, has been battling the disease for almost seven years.
However, she has found an escape in mentoring other cancer patients and spending time with her family.
“I try to stay as normal and active as possible,” Muldoon said. “When I’m busy, I don’t have cancer. It gives my brain a rest from thinking about it.”
Born in Wichita, Kan., Muldoon moved to Las Vegas in 1969. She married Tom Przestwor in 1983 and had two children, Kelly and Ryan.
“If I had to choose my strongest suit, it would be being a mom,” Muldoon said. “I loved to teach my kids things and enjoyed watching them grow into individuals.”
Muldoon’s daughter Kelly Giordani said she could always count on her mom for sarcastic humor or a “good Irish joke.”
“We have always had a very close relationship,” Giordani said. “She’s been my best friend my whole life, except maybe those few years I was a jerky teenager.”
It wasn’t long after Kelly and Ryan left for law school and college in 2007 when Muldoon collapsed in the shower with a pain in her side.
“I went to the doctor, and they found three very large tumors on my liver,” Muldoon said. “That pain was my first indication something was wrong. I had always felt terrific, never felt sick.”
Despite her annual checkups, Muldoon’s doctor discovered the cause was breast cancer that metastasized to her liver, lymph node and sternum.
“I was diagnosed with stage four HER2 breast cancer,” Muldoon said. “There’s no stage five. I remember asking them if there was.”
About 25 percent to 30 percent of breast cancer patients are diagnosed with the same type as Muldoon, according to Dr. Karen Jacks of Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada, 9280 W. Sunset Road.
“Patients who are diagnosed with HER2 breast cancer tend to live much shorter than those diagnosed at an earlier stage of breast cancer,” Jacks said. “However, (Muldoon) hasn’t let it hold her back. She’s living her life to the fullest and does not allow the diagnosis to keep her from doing what she wants.”
Giordani said the first doctor gave her mother six months to live. Later, they gave her five to 10 years.
“They all like to put a number on it,” Giordani said, “but she’s continued to defy any odds against her because she doesn’t see herself as a victim.”
Muldoon has undergone rounds of chemotherapy and medication since her diagnosis. She also had a bilateral mastectomy.
“It got to the point where I learned to live with cancer,” Muldoon said. “I learned not to be surprised when it came back because it was too disappointing otherwise. It was just another battle.”
Muldoon has mentored about 20 other cancer patients referred by friends or her doctor. She answers their questions and advises them on attitude, diet, doctors, work and more.
“Some of them came to me as complete strangers, but I do my best to be honest and help them,” Muldoon said. “If I can take one moment of terror away from them, that’s the best gift I can give.”
Despite her illness, Muldoon continues to work full-time as an executive assistant at Harrah’s, 3475 Las Vegas Blvd. South. She enjoys having family dinners and planning family vacations.
“I think (her diagnosis) has changed our family life for the better because it has brought us closer,” Giordani said. “It’s reminded us that life is a gift and to appreciate those who are close to us.”
For more information, visit cccnevada.com.
Contact Southwest View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.