I’ve been with Virginia Mason since 1998. Right now, I’m in what’s called NED. So I’ll never see remission. I’ll see NED. And we love NED, and it stands for No Evidence of Disease. I’m on treatment every day. I’m taking medicine and shots and things for treating cancer. I am not cancer-free, and I’m living, big L I V I N G, and little cancer.
Fortunately, because I love Virginia Mason and I speak on their behalf as a patient at numerous events, I got a phone call that said, “We have a new event we’re going to be doing this year.” Stationary cycling on the water. On September 14, here in Seattle, we are going to crush the Tour de Pier. Everyone will be shocked at how many people come out and have the best time and support cancer, all in one day.
I am living with cancer, yes. I got a phone call from my doctor to please come in, and that was the day I was diagnosed. Fortunately, then I only needed radiation and surgery, but I was done with it. Turns out, I was BRCA positive, and since I have an identical twin sister, Tracy, she automatically knew she had the BRCA. Three years later, after my first episode, Tracy was diagnosed, and she called me from the doctor’s office and said, “It’s my turn.” Due to her results that were sent up here to Virginia Mason, my oncologist recommended I have an immediate double mastectomy as well. Unfortunately, while I thought I was doing it in advance, the pathology showed that my cancer had come back. That was my second battle, Tracy’s first.
Seven years passed with no cancer, for us both. Everything was good. We were free.
Then, in the middle of the night, Tracy calls, “I know my cancer’s come back.” It got worse. The chemotherapy and treatments didn’t work, and unfortunately, we laid her to rest in 2014. Why? Why does it do that? Why Tracy?
It gave me strength to do what I could do, to do what’s in my control. And we do what we do, is gather our capacity and move forward.
The holidays were tough that year. Then in January, my husband and I usually go to this big event, and I saw a little bump. Dr. Wechter at Virginia Mason does a little biopsy. Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Six months after Tracy passes, and it had spread. Stage IV is the last stage, and I just couldn’t believe it. I’ve now had three mastectomies, cancer three times, they had to take more. Then chemo, the most amount of the harshest chemo for about six months, then radiation.
The estimated lifetime for me was about 2-1/2 years, and I never thought I would feel healthy again. But I’m here, and it is not my turn yet, not at all. Cancer is my story and Tracy’s story, in a big way. But I’m not ready to leave this planet right now.