Kathleen “Kathy” Ryan, 47: Always optimistic in face of cancer

She was diagnosed in 2005 with an operable brain tumor and spent a week in intensive care at Emory University Hospital. Doctors told the family she might be in a vegetative state, unable to speak, the rest of her life. But when they removed the respirator, she started breathing on her own and waved at relatives.

“I don’t know if she knew who we were or not,” said her mother, Sandra Ryan of  Alpharetta. “They worked with her in speech therapy and she got to where she could read books. She’d always liked to read.”

The tumor rendered Ms. Ryan unable to live in her townhouse in Decatur or to work as a veterinary technician. So the animal lover moved in with her parents in Alpharetta.

In healthier times, Ms. Ryan had enjoy scuba diving and still liked to wade in the water. On a family vacation to Destin, a beach goer saw her unconscious in the water, retrieved her, and performed CPR. She’d had a seizure.

Kathleen “Kathy” Ryan was diagnosed with chronic leukemia when she was 37. She died Monday from complications of the disease at her home in Alpharetta. She was 47.

A  memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. Northside Chapel Funeral Directors and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.

Ms. Ryan grew up in DeKalb County, where she attended Henderson High. She moved with her parents to Sandy Springs and earned her diploma at Atlanta’s Brandon Hall High. She was a veterinary technician for 25 years at  Briarcliff Animal Clinic and Northlake Animal Hospital.

She enjoyed pet-sitting, gardening and driving her convertible Audi. She and her cats, Catfish and Seabiscuit, enjoyed a special bond.

“She had the most optimistic outlook on life despite everything she was facing,” said Paige Willis, a sister from Ottawa, Canada. “Whatever the doctors needed to do, she had it done and was never depressed.”

In 2001, Ms. Ryan was diagnosed with chronic leukemia, which required daily medication. Doctors told relatives the disease may have caused the brain tumor to form.

Brain surgery impaired her short-term memory, but relatives say you couldn’t detect anything was amiss when talking to her. She spent several weeks hospitalized in November and January, and never completely recovered.

“She never became a victim of cancer,” said Pam McConnell, a younger sister from Memphis. “She did her treatments and all the things she needed to do, but there was never an ounce of pity and she didn’t want pity. She lived her life like she had a headache but like she still had to get things done.”

Additional survivors include her father, Daniel Ryan of Alpharetta and a brother, Tom Ryan of Duluth.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011 at 10:53 pm and is filed under Health Notes. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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