Kathi Goertzen, one of the most recognizable broadcasters in town, would so much rather be storyteller than story subject. But here she is...
Kathi Goertzen, one of the most recognizable broadcasters in town, would so much rather be storyteller than story subject. But here she is, on the eve of yet another brain surgery, being interviewed in her newsroom, stopping to field hugs from co-workers.
The KOMO-TV anchorwoman is headed to a Seattle hospital this morning for surgery to remove part of a tumor that has regrown at the base of her brain. It’ll be the third time she’s undergone the procedure in the past 10 years.
“I hate putting everyone through this again. I really do — especially my friends, my family and loved ones,” says Goertzen, 49. “It really stinks.”
The diagnosis that she had a tumor near the base of her brain first arrived in 1998, when her face became numb and she lost hearing in her right ear. Surgery and radiation treatment followed and then, happily, her hearing returned. But there were always chances that the tumor, a golf-ball-sized meningioma, would regrow.
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And it did.
There was a second surgery and more radiation in 2005 to beat the benign tumor, which was never fully removed because it was intertwined with nerves affecting speech and swallowing. Her voice would sometimes shake a little. On occasion she’d have trouble swallowing or catching her breath.
But there were periods of time when Goertzen wouldn’t think about the tumor at all.
“I usually think about it a week before I go in for an MRI and I wonder, ‘Oh, has it regrown?’ But the rest of the time … . I’ve been dealing with this for 10 years and you know, you’ve got to live your life.”
When an MRI, taken some eight months ago, showed the tumor was growing again, Goertzen hoped it was just caused by swelling. When it wasn’t, she chose surgery.
“Third time’s a charm, right?” she wrote in an e-mail to her newsroom earlier this week, wanting to make sure she told the staff first before talking publicly.
Goertzen, a Seattle native, is nothing if not loyal to KOMO-TV. She interned at the station while a student at Washington State University, then took a full-time job there after graduation, reporting and anchoring the news for the past 28 years.
She’s earned five Emmys, an Edward R. Murrow Award and endless acclaim from the public for both her journalism and her longtime community-service work.
She’s a wife — married to Rick Jewett, who works in sales at the station — and a mother of two daughters: Alexa, 18, and Andrea, 12. “This whole experience has drawn us closer,” she says.
On TV, Goertzen comes across as amiable and real. In the newsroom, colleagues say, she’s smart and gracious.
During an interview, under exceedingly difficult circumstances, she is warm and open, gently cursing at herself when she feels like she’s about to weep — “Where’s the freaking Kleenex?” — and funny.
“What did someone say the other day? It’s like I’m giving it a little haircut,” she says about her tumor and the pending surgery. “I’m going in for a little trim.”
Says Eric Johnson, KOMO-TV news and sports anchorman: “She’s so strong and I think it buoys all of us.”
This time, rather than Goertzen breaking the news of her surgery on TV as if it were any other story, she pretaped a five-minute segment in the living room of her Seattle home, on the couch with Johnson, weather anchorman Steve Pool and her longtime co-anchorman Dan Lewis. Goertzen and Lewis have anchored the evening newscasts for 20 years.
The emotional segment led Wednesday night’s 5 p.m. newscast.
“What can viewers do?” Johnson asks her.
“Say a prayer,” Goertzen replies, her dog Kahlua at her feet. “It’s helped me before and I know it will help me again.”
“I have a ‘Let go, let God’ attitude,” she says. “I turn it all over to God. That’s how I deal with it.”
The surgery, scheduled for 8:30 a.m., is expected to last some four hours. She anticipates radiation treatment will continue for six weeks.
Her support system includes sisters, a brother-in-law and her parents, who live just up the street. Mom was scheduled to make dinner last night.
Goertzen had planned to celebrate a milestone birthday — her 50th — with five longtime girlfriends on a trip at the end of the month. The celebration is now on hold until the fall.
Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or firstname.lastname@example.org