I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer

Each year approximately 200 women in our community learn they have breast cancer.  I was one of them.  My name is Christine Dowding.  I was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in May  2010, during my regular check up at the ‘Ohana Mammography Center.

One day I’m driving bus, advising students, and enjoying life,  then suddenly there’s this overwhelming fear, a sense of helplessness, anger, sadness and then finally hope…Hope that is inspired by friends, family, other survivors and your care team.

I’m asking you to consider helping other women just like me by joining the 2012 Breast Cancer Campaign. All you need to do is organize your fellow employees, church members, friends, or service club members and hold a fundraiser this October in support of local breast cancer care.   A team toolkit is available that includes posters, stickers, and lots of fundraising ideas.

At North Star Lodge Cancer Care Center I have an army of highly skilled surgeons, nurses, oncologists, pharmacists, radiation therapists, rehabilitation therapists, social workers, counselors, and dietitians waging this war with me.  It is reassuring to know that I have access to spectacular care where I can be near my supportive friends and family…To be home where I can heal in a comfortable environment. For the past two years they’ve all been by my side through chemotherapy, radiation treatments, surgery to remove the tumor, and reconstructive surgery.

This experience is daunting for sure.  And the journey is made that much harder for patients who must worry about how they’ll make it to their appointments or pay for medications.  Thanks to The Memorial Foundation Breast Cancer Care Fund many local breast cancer patients receive assistance for mammograms, biopsies, prescriptions, counseling, nutritional supplements, support groups, transportation and rehabilitation garments.

To get things started, mark September 6 on your calendar for the team kickoff luncheon where you’ll get your very own toolkit.  If you’d like to get started sooner jump online at www.memfound.org/breastcancerfund to  download the toolkit.

Thank you for your kind consideration.  If you have questions, please  contact Julie Toney, North Star Lodge, at 509-574-3441.

The Father of the Bride

Here’s one example of how the staff at Memorial went above and beyond the call of duty by making it possible for a patient to participate in one of life’s greatest joys:

I recently attended a wedding where the father of the bride, who was a patient at Memorial at the time, was temporarily discharged so he could walk his daughter down the aisle. The staff wrapped his nasogastric tube in white, got him dressed and said, “Go have fun and we’ll see you in a couple of hours.” He did return to the hospital after enjoying time at the reception. He was most impressed with our staff and the happiness they made possible for him. Their extra effort allowed him to be present for one of the most significant events in his daughter’s life. Sometimes the rewards of working in a hospital go beyond the care that’s provided within the facility.”

Circling Our Wagons

There is an air of expectancy in the halls at Cottage in the Meadow. Soon, the state will give the green light, and we will accept our first patients. Hospice care in Yakima will never be the same. It is heartwarming and admirable when a community circles the wagons and protects its own. We have seen it done many times in answer to a crisis or disaster. Here’s a twist: Cottage in the Meadow is Yakima’s testament to being prepared.

The details of dying well are hard to define, let alone anticipate. Who will see to the patient’s comfort? How will we manage his/her pain? Who can I call in the middle of the night? When can I get some rest? Who will comfort the family? How ever will we explain death to the children?

As a hospice volunteer, I have learned that details of providing hospice care are innumerable. The hospice team has has put in tireless hours perfecting their specialty…giving calm, comforting care to patients and their families in the midst of what could feel like a crisis in any other setting. WOW. I admire their dedication, and I admire the many Yakima people who support hospice.

As the staff person who receives in-kind gifts at The Memorial Foundation, I asked the Cottage staff today if they have a ‘wish list’ of things they need (it is, after all, budgeting season for next fiscal year). Their reply is a humble list, based strictly on making a brief period of someone else’s life easier and more meaningful.

For the patients:
• Blank journals for patients to record life stories and messages to loved ones
• 2 bed-size quilts
• Quilting materials
• 1,000 assorted daffodil bulbs, 50 white hyacinth and 50 blue hyacinth bulbs, for planting in September or October

For connecting with grieving children, our social worker asks for:
• A baseball and a couple of mitts
• Frisbee
• Basketball hoop and basketball
• Craft paper
• Colored pencils

Can you help? We would love to circle the wagons and gather these items for the Cottage and its patients and families. The Memorial Foundation at 2701 Tieton Drive will happily receive your donations and get them out to the Cottage. I’ll probably be the one to greet you and thank you.