Middle school teacher believes COVID vaccine saved her life

For months, Patti Koth has stared out a hospital window while she received chemotherapy.
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 4:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2021 at 6:56 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For months, Patti Koth has stared out a hospital window while she received chemotherapy.

Koth was diagnosed with Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer around February, but she said she’s thankful to be in that chair because her diagnosis nearly went undetected.

“I was not thinking I had cancer,” Koth said. “I thought perhaps there could be a blocked duct, several things.”

The middle school teacher received the COVID-19 vaccine without hesitation. But after receiving the second dose, Koth said she noticed some swelling in her arm, which is not uncommon. What is uncommon is that the swelling continued for six weeks.

Like many, Koth avoided going to the hospital in fear of catching the coronavirus. So she pushed off routine appointments with her physicians. However, the persistent swelling was not something Koth could avoid. Her daughter, who’s a nurse, persuaded her to go.

Koth received a full physical and was later scheduled to received a mammogram. Within two hours of the mammogram, Koth was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

Her physicians continue to stress that Koth’s cancer was not caused by the vaccine. In retrospect, Koth said she’s thankful she got vaccinated. If she hadn’t, her arm may not have swelled and her cancer could have gone undetected.

“Absolutely it was a relief,” Koth said. “I’m not the type of person that immediately goes to the ‘Why me?’ It’s just a challenge I have in my life and you face that head on.”

Now that cases are declining and all U.S. adults have access to the COVID vaccine, more people feel confident to walk into a hospital and request an appointment. UofL Health physicians said they’re starting to diagnose more patients in the later stage of their disease.

“I’ve seen a few every other week, some of them mild cases,” UofL Health Brown Cancer Center spokeswoman Dr. Beth Riley said. “I do know the emergency room is seeing significant cases of delay in diagnosis not only in cancer but other health problems. So we’re starting to see the true toll at least medically what’s happened with this delay, which underscores the importance of regular screenings and regular health care I think overall.”

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