Cancer Survivor Strives to Provide Education and Compassion

Kelly (in blue) at the North Shore Scenic Railroad for their largest fundraiser with Thomas and Percy

Kelly Cochrane is a bundle of energy, charisma, drive and chutzpah whose warm and bubbly personality envelops whomever she talks to. This three-time cancer survivor knows a thing or two about relationships and community. And she’s using her Bayport business, KC Consulting Group, for two issues that are most important to her: medical education and charity.

“We specialize in extremely small group training,” Cochrane says. Physicians and researchers from top institutions around the world are on KC Consulting’s faculty. Doctors can contact KC Consulting to ask about medical training for a certain issue and Cochrane will assemble a course taught by experts from Memorial Sloan Kettering, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic and other institutions.

“Not only do we train the doctors, we also train the nurses because they’re the front lines. They’re the ones who are talking to the patients,” Cochrane says. “My nurse was like my lifeline. Treating cancer is never an individual sole provider. It’s a village. That’s why we train the nurses, we train the nurse practitioner, the doctors; we train fellows.”

Cochrane was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 at the age of 32. She was inspired to create change after her own situation resulted in her firing four physicians from her cancer treatment team. She was also allergic to many medications which made her cancer difficult to treat. Her former husband was consulting on a new drug and suggested it to her doctor. That was a light bulb moment for Cochrane: How could the latest research quickly trickle down from the top tier cancer treatment institutions and research facilities and into the hands of community oncologists?

“There’s a huge gap between the people that create the drugs, do the research and write the protocol and the community doctors,” Cochrane says.

“Nobody in this world I can think of that would say, ‘Ok, I have cancer. Let me go down to MD Anderson. I’m going right out to Sloan Kettering. They’re going to say I’m going to go see my general doctor … And then they’re going to go to a local oncologist,” Cochrane explains. “The local oncologist is seeing several hundred patients a week and although he or she’s trying to get all the education, it’s very difficult for them to come up with a way to get down to Sloan Kettering and meet with these guys and talk to them and attend lectures.”

Cochrane’s consulting group also helps local physicians reach out to renowned experts to consult on cases. Cochrane and her team have fostered relationships between experts and local oncologists who then consult on local patients and treatment plans. “We’ve created a way for patients to stay home and still get advised and treated by these big institutions,” she says. “They get their chemo at their home clinic rather than have them go all the way to the big institutions because now they’re consulting on their cases.”

Cochrane is also pushing for more education on immunotherapy in oncology, or immuno-oncology. The treatment is cutting edge, but also dangerous if not done properly. The only textbook on immunology was in French. So KC Consulting took on a project to create an English version called Oncoimmunology: A Practical Guide for Cancer Immunology. They worked with top doctors and researchers from France, Japan, Australia, the U.S. and England. She then organized a summit of 700 doctors and 45 presenting faculty to present the contents of the book.

Cochrane also uses the event planning arm of her company to help local charities and community organizations. She’s organized events and programs for Safe Journey, a charity helping victims of domestic abuse. She also organizes Day Out With Thomas in Duluth and created the event’s sensory-friendly day for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

Her friend of 15 years, Anne Jennen from Edina, helps with the community events.

“Kelly is amazing and energetic,” Jennen says. “She’s risen above everything and I aspire to be like her.”

Cochrane takes pride in giving back in any way she can. “And so everything I do helps somebody and goes back into the community,” she says.