Anne’s Story

Anne 2 - Willard St Home (2)From an early age, Anne had big dreams, and somewhere in those early years she developed a determination to follow her dreams and make them happen. Growing up, she enjoyed an active life and excelled at Irish step dancing – becoming a 2-time Massachusetts State Champion and the New England Regional State Champion at just 11 years old.

After high school, Anne continued to forge her path, working full time while pursuing her studies part time in the evenings and on weekends. She soon graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business from Boston College. In 1987, Monahan headed west to Tempe, Ariz. to attend Arizona State University and earn a master’s degree in business administration.

For the next 15 years she thrived in corporate marketing and advertising until one day she decided to venture out and fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a gymnastics studio. Her gymnastics studio, located in Phoenix’s central corridor, was her pride and passion for the next five years. All of Anne’s hard work and strong determination to succeed were finally paying off.

Anne 33 - Face Shot (2)In 1990, Monahan began experiencing troublesome physical issues including abdominal pain, cramps, constipation and diarrhea. Every doctor she saw diagnosed her with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). On her 40th birthday, in October of 2001, Monahan went to yet another doctor with her persistent symptoms, and her severely swollen abdomen (due to unexplained rapid weight loss) led this doctor to realize the urgency of her symptoms. After over a decade of misdiagnosis, Monahan was finally referred to an obstetrician/gynecologist who performed a pelvic exam, a vaginal ultrasound and the CA-125 blood test.

The specialist found tumors on each ovary and gave her the shocking diagnosis of possible ovarian cancer. Anne was told that surgery would be the only definitive way to confirm the diagnosis, and so the next day Monahan began her long and courageous battle.The debulking surgery revealed that the tumors were indeed cancerous and, due to the prolonged misdiagnosis, the cancer had spread. Because of her advanced stage of cancer, the surgery ended up including a total hysterectomy. With the realization of the long and arduous journey the illness might take, Monahan was forced to sell the gymnastics studio she had worked so tirelessly to build in order to focus on her health.

arm pic3Soon after, Monahan began and completed her first round of chemotherapy. Two months after completion of chemotherapy, Monahan returned to full-time work as a Business Counselor at the Maricopa Community Colleges Small Business Development Center (SBDC). After 17 hopeful months of remission, the cancer returned.  Monahan was faced with a long road of more chemotherapy, more painful procedures and complications resulting from her condition, including an additional debulking surgery, multiple bowel obstructions and colitis. She continued her work at the SBDC for five years until she had to retire due to the ovarian cancer and the side effects of the chemotherapy.

In September of 2007, Monahan established the Anne Rita Monahan Foundation, which is fighting to “ARM” women against ovarian cancer. The Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease, which are often difficult to identify, and raise funds for research to find a reliable screening for the disease. With thae same unyielding determination she demonstrated throughout her life, Monahan is fulfilled yet another dream when she created her Foundation; telling her story so that she could help save other women.

Sadly, on May 13, 2009, Anne passed away from this terrible disease. Her foundation lives on in honor of her perserverence and dedication.

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