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THE LUCKIEST, UNLUCKY GIRL
Esteemed Wound Care Surgeon Survives Heart Failure and Brain Cancer All While Marrying and Starting a Family
BY DARA MORMILE
Cheating death twice isn’t something that simply “happens” by coincidence. If you ask podiatric surgeon and nationally renowned Fox Business News commentator Dr. Kelly Powers, DPM, about escaping a doomed fate, she attests to the fact that battling life-threatening diseases takes more than the sheer will to survive.
“The worst day of my life saved my life and I definitely feel like I cheated death!” Dr. Powers told Preferred Health Magazine in an exclusive interview, revealing some of the deepest and darkest turns of her health journey, fighting and surviving heart failure and then winning the battle against brain cancer. She also shared her motivation to educate others and how the miracle of motherhood kept her mindset powerful and positive.
The energetic and enthusiastic doctor, who’s contributed her medical expertise to Fox Business News for decades, is thankful that her tumultuous battles changed the way she now advises her own patients.
“Here I was - a doctor talking to the public and giving expert advice… Meanwhile, I was missing the subtle signs in myself of heart failure…” she admitted. “My frightening experiences changed the way I treat my patients - now, I encourage them to be their best advocate and get as many opinions as they need to make the right decisions for every aspect of their health. You have to make sure you have the best care around - whether it’s your surgeon or practicing doctor. Ask all the questions.”
Dr. Powers flippantly refers to herself as the “Luckiest Unlucky Girl,” in light of the fact that life seemed to repeatedly test her resilience. She was misdiagnosed with heart failure at the age of 39 .
From back/chest pains to shortness of breath, her first health struggle began in 2018. She’d been to three emergency rooms and was told that she was “fine” even though doctors later discovered she suffered from pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart).
“It’s crazy - I went into heart failure while doing a report on Fox Business - live - on heart health and talking about the subtle signs that women often miss. You can’t make this up! I was actually diagnosed with heart disease by accident when my gallbladder was failing and I had to have it removed. That led to my heart being examined and …I couldn’t believe it – here I was in my late 30s, experiencing a health condition that a much older person would be diagnosed with,” she said, recapping the first time she theoretically dodged a deadly bullet.
Shortly after this health scare, Dr. Powers shifted from being a professional, powerful national health spokeswoman to a cancer patient. Frequent headaches and other bouts of illnesses came to a head in July 2020 when a grand mal seizure - what she notes as “The Seizure that Saved Her Life,” sent her to the hospital. She had a dangerous episode, passed out on the floor in her home and her dad found her in a ‘full-blown’ seizure, foaming at the mouth. She was taken to the emergency room and had a CT scan, which revealed glioblastoma - a brain tumor that resulted in emergency surgery. It was more than just a tiny lesion that was sitting on her skull. It threatened to take her life. Luckily the tumor was caught in time.
This undoubtedly became the most defining time for her in so many ways.
In the midst of her health hurricanes, the resilient doctor and her husband pursued starting a family and tried having a child through surrogacy. Even though the surrogate was located in Wichita, Kansas - and Dr. Powers is in the New York area - she was nervous about the outcome.
“Being the ‘Luckiest Unlucky Girl’ I had no idea what would transpire. I just prayed... So, the brain surgeon is wheeling me in to have surgery - he suddenly stops and says, ‘Hey just want to let you know before I put you under, you’re pregnant - the surrogate took and you have a baby boy on the way!’ I honestly could only think - what the hell is happening? My family had already known about the success of the surrogacy before I went into the ER. They weren’t sure if they should tell me. But they had to let me know - because they knew this amazing news would get me through post-op.”
She felt a new sense of strength and energy to push through the risky procedure. “I woke up and I just felt amazing! Even though I wound up with lower right quadrant blindness in my eye, I could still see, I could talk, and I knew I was having a baby boy. His existence just inspired me to fight and survive through everything.”
Her now two-year-old son Bennett has never known his mother without cancer. Dr. Powers shared many humbling and loving photos on social media of her and her son with barely any hair.
“The joke is that Ben and I had the same haircut for a while - we were bald at the same time! And we both had pixie cuts at the same time! I’m just grateful to have stayed strong for my family through my battles,” she said confidently, adding that her genetics and gender played a huge part in her ability to pull through in the end. Her age also gave her a 30% better survival rate.
While she’s been cancer-free for nearly 4 years and has scans every 3 months to monitor her health, she has frequent jousts with survivor’s guilt; asking herself how she made it through so many hardships while millions of others succumb to brain cancer, which is the 10th leading cause of death for men and women in the country - and is reportedly the 22nd most common cancer worldwide.
“I can’t believe that I can say I’m so lucky that this happened to me, and I lived through it. As a female in her forties with genetics on my side, I knew I had the best chance of surviving this. It was a localized tumor, and it hadn’t spread. It was a blessing how I made it from diagnosis to recovery,” she said.
To add to her emotional roller coaster, she recently discovered that some of her closest high school friends from The Bronx/Yonkers area also developed brain cancers. She remains devastated by the crazy coincidence.
Motivated to make a difference, she told PHM about her close friend and mentor, Alex Molina - who’s battling brain cancer and entered hospice in October 2023. “He’s one of the most important people in my life,” she admitted. “We were high school friends, we hung out together - we’re so close - and we both wind up with brain cancer…How messed up is this? None of this makes sense…” she said, flummoxed by the course of events.
Ultimately, she knows Molina’s time is valuable and limited. Subsequently, making a difference in the future of brain cancer survival is at the top of her list.
“Alex is still alive, and it breaks my heart when I’m there with him, but he can’t speak back to me… I would love to start a charity that will educate people and fund more research in his honor. And I’d love to piggyback off of another charity and pay it forward,” she proudly noted.
Dr. Kelly, who also has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science Management, is a strong supporter of the non-profit organization StacheStrong - a 501(c)3 devoted to raising funds and awareness for brain cancer research.
She’s possibly flirting with the idea of writing a book about her courageous journey and collaborating with a ghostwriter down the line to tell her story effectively. “I think this book would be the easiest ever to compile - it writes itself.”
When it comes to going back on camera, the native New Yorker said she’s ready to return to broadcast TV after taking a break for a few years. “It took a lot of healing time, but now I’m ready to go full steam ahead. I recently contacted some of my agents because, to be honest, I wasn’t ready to go back to full swing for a long time. Doing live, hard national news is a lot of stress, but it was exhilarating and the best time of my life. I feel like I’m coming out of my shell finally, so a return to national news is in the works.”
Dr. Powers, DPM completed a residency at Boston University School Of Medicine and is a podiatric surgery specialist in Purchase, NY. She has over 12 years of experience and graduated from the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in 2010 and continued conducting surgery on her patients while battling her cancer.
“Just like Tim McGraw sang - ‘Live Like You’re Dying,” she said. “I question every day why all of this happened to me but I’m here and I’m going to keep staying positive. I’m truly thankful to be the ‘Luckiest Unlucky Girl.’”