Redefining What It Is To Be A Breast Cancer Surviver: Kathy Kovell

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual campaign to increase awareness of the disease. This month Curvy Couture recognizes Kathy Kovell for her inspiring story, her courageous battle and her steadfast determination. We feel that every woman can learn from Kathy’s struggle and her triumph, so Curvy Couture has nominated Kathy as our Curvy Girl of the Month. Roy Lingham, an engineer from New Jersey changed Kathy's life by encouraging her to enter the contracting business. Lingham felt that there should be more women like Kathy in that line of work. He became her inspiration and her mentor, which fostered the beginning of Kathy Kovell’s career. Now, Kathy has been in the residential remodeling business for 24 years and a small business consultant for 10 years. She operates her own business, The Big Red Construction Company, named for her vibrant red hair. Kathy graduated from Mills College, in California, with honors where she obtained a degree in Ethic Studies. "I encourage more women to be in the contracting business. I'm not certain why more women are not. Women are a lot more detail oriented. We are neat, clean, and pay attention to the little things that might get overlooked. We are made for this business! I've never lifted a hammer in my life. This is my main tool” (points to her head) “THIS is my hammer. I consider myself a construction therapist"


In 2002 Kathy was looking in the mirror and noticed a small lump on her right breast. After a mammogram, the doctor said the lump was benign. In 2003, she was blow drying her hair and noticed a dent on her right breast. She proceeded with a second mammogram, "I went into my obgyn's office, he saw me immediately and said, 'you have breast cancer'." The diagnosis was very difficult to deal with. Kathy had scheduled an appointment for a biopsy. During the biopsy procedure, doctors determine which type of cancer is affecting the patient. The experience was absolutely frightening for Kathy. She found herself staring her mortality in the face. She had been diagnosed with Hormone Receptive breast cancer. “The technological developments doctors are now utilizing to treat patients are amazing, powerful and good. This leads me to believe that all this money that we’re donating is somehow getting in the right hands and progress is really being made.” “The doctors informed me of the various stages of breast cancer and which stage of development I was in. They wheeled me out into the hallway and I had the most amazing experience. I was alone in this hallway, in a wheelchair, when I felt white light come down over me; it was just a very powerful and spiritual moment. And from that moment on I knew that I was going to be okay. And I was!” Later Kathy underwent a procedure called a lumpectomy; they had taken a third of her left breast. “I don’t use my boobs. I wasn't one of those women who were really upset to lose their boobs. That's not where the definition of myself is.” Kathy’s breast cancer had progressed into the second stage. She was scheduled for six rounds of chemo therapy but had only required four. “I had a hard time losing my hair, I really did. I don’t have any recollection of what I looked like without hair. But I do remember being in the shower and looking down in the tub to see it falling out. Every woman has different issues with their body. But my hair…it was my definition, my company is named after it (Big Red Construction), it’s the logo. I was really attached to it.” Over the course of the entire ordeal Kathy had been through eight weeks of radiation and had never missed a day of work or a meal. It was important for her to stay healthy and start exercising. “We really need to be mindful of our weight and nutrition. It's not that you have to be a size 4 or a size 0, it's about health. Weight is just a number.” One night while out to dinner with her friend Jean; Kathy heard a story that would change her outlook on the situation. Jean began to explain his story of his father’s battle with cancer. “When I was little, my siblings and I knew our dad was sick but we didn’t really know what was wrong. As kids, we would all climb onto his favorite chair and watch TV together with my dad. I remember the day that feelings changed and I knew my father was dying. It was so hard to lose him.” Kathy thought to herself, "How shallow am I? I’m afraid of losing my hair?!" Jeans story of his father had influenced Kathy to take on a whole new perspective of what is most important in life.


At 49 years old, Kathy had a whole new way of understanding perspective. Her will and determination changed her. The progression of her breast cancer came to a halt in the fourth stage. Her experience with cancer has made her live life to the fullest. She seizes every opportunity and lives life in the moment. “Adversity is our best teacher. I would go through the experience again to gain what I have now.” Breast cancer impacted Kathy’s life greatly. She is appreciative of the life lessons she has acquired during her ordeal and looks forward to the future. “Eleven years later, here I am as a survivor. It's a wonderful place to be. Life is very potent and precious. My purpose in life is very clear to me. My experience with breast cancer went better for me than most, with the chemo and radiation. I have no husband, no boyfriend. My Business IS my life. Having that passion for my career is what got me through. The Big Red helped me persevere.” “We don't need a debilitating illness to be thankful for living or learning lessons.” We can all learn a lesson from Kathy's ordeal, her triumph and her view on life. Kathy has asked that all proceeds go to the Friends of Faith charity.
About Friends of Faith Our mission is to provide information and financial support to organizations helping low income, underinsured women (and men) undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Friends of Faith is not affiliated with or influenced by any political, religious or ethnic organizations. All funds raised by Friends of Faith are distributed locally in all Bay Area communities.

To reach Friends of Faith to learn more about their programs, contact: Friends of Faith, Inc. 418 30th Street - Suite B Oakland, CA 94609 Phone: (510) 834-4142   

For her courage and strength, Kathy Kovell is our October Curvy Girl.Are you our next Curvy Girl of the Month? Click here to enter for a chance to win a free lingerie wardrobe and be featured on

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