Foundation honors WL womans battle against cervical cancer

Kathy Manning-Potwin didn’t have time for the doctor. She was planning her dream wedding.

The 2005 West Linn High School grad was living the dream life. In 2011, she had the perfect job working for her parents’ business and fell in love. She had friends, a close-knit family and a sunny outlook on life.

So, when Kathy’s doctor told her after her annual exam that she had an irregular pap smear and needed to get checked out, Kathy put it on the back burner.

Finally, nearly nine months later, after experiencing menstrual-like bleeding for several weeks, and after her perfect wedding and honeymoon, she went to the doctor. Kathy was diagnosed with stages 3-4 cervical cancer in November 2011.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kathy Manning-Potwin wanted to be an inspiration for other cancer victims and maintained a blog sharing her ups and downs.

Kathy lost her battle to cancer Oct. 8, 2012. She was 25.

“That smile, I miss it so much,” Kathy’s mother, Peggy Manning said, describing her daughter as funny, smart, vivacious, kind and loving. She is survived by her mother; her father, Steven Manning; her twin brother, Chris; and younger brother, 18-year-old Tommy.

Though Chris was born just nine minutes before her and her brother Tommy was born eight years later, Kathy often joked that she had middle child syndrome. In high school, Kathy played the flute and participated in basketball and volleyball, although she and her friends were more focused on having fun than winning. During their junior year at WLHS, both Chris and Kathy were named to the homecoming court.

“They were best of friends,” Peggy Manning said of Kathy and Chris.

After high school, Kathy attended Portland Community College but dropped out the first year. After working at various retail stores, Kathy, then 22, asked to work at her parents’ business, The Party Place. It was there she found success. She was a lead salesperson and won event industry awards for her table displays.

Working for a wedding and event planning and rental business, Kathy worked to create her own dream wedding. Part of her prep was to get into shape. She turned to West Linn resident and trainer Michelle Galvin for help.

Galvin worked with Kathy three to four times a week leading up to the wedding. During that time, a friendship bloomed.

“She had a sense of grace about her,” Galvin said of Kathy. “She just had this radiance about her.”

After the wedding and honeymoon, Kathy went to the doctor. Later, she called her mother.

“I have cancer, mom,” Manning recalled her saying. “Two weeks later I broke out in hives and had them for a year.”

Kathy quickly entered into treatment to battle cancer. She turned to a vegan diet, exercised and was determined to win.

“She was doing everything possible to beat it,” Manning said.

She also wrote. Kathy started a blog, “Life’s a Cupcake: Living With Cancer, Enjoying the Sweet Things in Life and Shining on.”

“She wanted to be an inspiration for other people going through cancer, to remain upbeat about it. You know, cancer sucks,” Manning said.

At one time, Kathy told her mother that if she survived cancer, she wanted to become a counselor for other cancer victims.

After successfully completing her first round of treatments, Kathy learned in August 2012 that her cancer had spread to her neck.

Though she fought a courageous and long battle, Kathy passed away just a few short months later.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kathy Manning-Potwin put off seeing a specialist because she was busy planning her dream wedding. She was married in September 2011 and was diagnosed with cervical cancer two months later.

“She died with such grace and dignity. I can only hope to be like that,” her mother said.

After her daughter died, Manning was going through Kathy’s iPhone and came across a bucket list. On that list included meeting singer Katy Perry, visiting Paris and Italy and taking up the flute again. Also on the list was to found a cervical cancer awareness organization.

Though Galvin regrets not being there more for Kathy during her cancer treatments, Kathy has had a lasting effect on her.

“When Kathy passed, I felt like immediately the next day I could hear her,” Galvin said. “I really felt like I was being directed by Kathy.”

One night, while lying in bed, Galvin turned to her husband and told him she was going to start a cancer foundation in honor of Kathy. It was only later that Galvin learned of Kathy’s bucket list.

“Well, I’m going to live that bucket list for her,” Galvin said.

Galvin has founded the Katherine M. Potwin Cervical Cancer Awareness Foundation for Providence Portland Cancer Center, which is where Kathy received her treatment. The foundation aims to raise money for awareness of cervical cancer and to increase education on how to prevent the disease.

On Sept. 22, the foundation will put on the Heroes Run for Cervical Cancer 5K/10K run at Mary S. Young State Park in West Linn. The proceeds from the event will be donated to the foundation.

Part of the foundation’s message is for women to listen to their bodies and to take action.

“Kathy waited too long. Don’t put off your annual exam. See a specialist and don’t wait to do it,” Manning said. “She wasn’t perfect, but she was ours. She was our little girl.”

Kathy Manning-Potwin’s blog:

Katherine M. Potwin Cervical Cancer Awareness Foundation:

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