Annette Mattern knows how fragile life can be. The 57-year-old grandmother was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer 20 years ago.
Since then, she has battled several recurrences of the disease — most recently finding out the cancer has resurfaced again — this time in her liver.
“I’ve been on this road a long time,” said Mattern, who has joined forces with Scottsdale Healthcare’s Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center to help put a public face on cancer awareness.
Mattern is one of 40 people featured in Scottsdale Healthcare’s “Portraits: The Faces of Cancer,” art exhibit that is currently on display at Arizona Public Service Co. headquarters in Phoenix.
Speaking from her Scottsdale home, Mattern’s voice is strong and steady as she shares her story. For reasons science cannot yet explain, Mattern said her body — which has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries over the years — still has the propensity to create new cancer cells.
Mattern said she stopped asking “Why me?” long ago. Following high-risk cancer surgery earlier in the decade when she was given low odds of surviving, she resigned from her corporate job at a communications company to focus on her health and become an activist.
She said she went public about her own fight to help create awareness about the symptoms of ovarian cancer and the importance of early detection.
“I found that working to help other women and their families deal with the disease gave a sense of purpose to my disease.”
In 2003, Mattern wrote the book, “Outside the Lines of Love, Life and Cancer,” and embarked on a nationwide tour meeting with cancer patients and support groups.
She also joined the board of directors of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, helping to educate the public about the disease, sometimes dubbed “the silent killer.” It’s a deadly disease, Mattern says, that strikes one out of every 69 women in the U.S. each year.
APS will be featuring the exhibit — which is usually on display at the Piper Cancer Center — at its public art gallery until Dec. 7.
“'Portraits’ is an important exhibit because it causes us to look at cancer,” said Mattern. “If we cannot face it, we cannot cure it.”
See for yourself
The “Portraits ... The Faces of Cancer” exhibit is free and open to the public
8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until Dec. 7. APS corporate headquarters lobby, 400 N. Fifth St., Phoenix.