Virginia Mason’s Match Ball Patient Hero Program recognizes remarkable survivors throughout our community.
2016 Virginia Mason Match Ball Patient Heroes
October 23 - Al Lippert
My name is Al Lippert, and I live on Mercer Island. I have played competitive sports ever since I was a kid growing up in The Bronx. We lived near a park and all the kids played stickball in the street and ball games in the park. My father, who played soccer in Europe and New York, taught me to play soccer when I was 5 years old using a rolled up ball of rags as a soccer ball so the little kids wouldn’t get hurt. In High School I played baseball and was the catcher on our team, and in college I played baseball and football.
After college I took up tennis and squash, and when we moved to the west coast I started playing racquetball. As I got older pickleball became my sport of choice. In 2011 pain in my right hip forced me to stop playing pickleball. I was not a happy camper. That’s when I went to see Dr. Clabeaux at Virginia Mason. After x-rays and an examination, he said, “You need a hip replacement.” If you ever met Dr. Clabeaux you would understand why I had the utmost confidence that he would put me back on the pickleball court. I asked him how long I would have to wait before playing pickleball again. He said three months after the operation. Three months to the day I was back on the court!
But four years later, pain again—this time in my left hip. Of course I returned to Dr. Clabeaux. Yep—another new hip was needed. And three months after the second operation I was back on the pickleball court—again! The amazing thing is: none of the other pickleball players can believe that I have had two hip replacements. I am a happy camper, and Dr. Clabeaux is my hero.
I’ve lost count of my Mercer Island neighbors who have had hips replaced by Dr. Clabeaux. We refer to him as the “go-to guy for hip replacements.”
October 12 - Jamie Stenbak
Six months ago, shortly after turning 40, I went in for my routine mammogram. I was told that I had a suspicious area that needed a closer look. This was the start of many, many, many appointments at Virginia Mason. Five days after my biopsy, I got the call that I’ll never forget… I was told that I have breast cancer.
Each Virginia Maspn employee (nurse navigator, surgeon, radiologist, a genetic counselor, oncologist, schedulers and nurses) that I talked with treated me with care, respect and concern. My surgeon, Dr. Grumley, is amazing, so professional, easy to talk to, kind and carrying. I would highly recommend her for anyone facing breast cancer.
I’m a mom of three young boys, this time hasn’t been easy for our family. After my lumpectomy, the pathology report showed that there was cancer left behind. Dr Grumley needed to go back in two additional times to ensure all of the cancer was removed. I’m forever thankful for family and friends who were ready to help by watching our boys, cooking meals, cleaning our house & praying for me.
Earlier this month I finished up my radiation treatments, they lasted for 6.5 weeks, 33 treatments in all.
I have ZERO family history and I had ZERO symptoms. I’m so THANKFUL that my cancer was found early on. I urge YOU to MAKE your mammogram appointment if you have been putting it off... Had I waited for a few years, I could have a very different outcome. Early detection saves lives!
September 28 - Derek Stansbury
Life gives us many challenges. How we deal and respond to those challenges only make us stronger and appreciate life more. My name is Derek Stansbury and my life has held many challenges. In 1999 I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer. After a year of chemotherapy treatments I’m now in remission for over 16 years. However another challenge I have dealt with all my life has been obesity.
During my last physical with my primary care physician I was informed I needed to do something quickly about my weight or I was in imminent danger of a major heart attack. Weighing in at 311 pounds I had high cholesterol, high blood pressure, acid reflux, pre-diabetes and required the aid of a CPAP machine at night to breath. My health was spiraling out of control.
My doctor gave me a referral to Virginia Mason Bariatric Center. From the first moment I stepped into Virginia Mason I knew I was doing the right thing. I felt a sense of family, compassion and caring. From my first consultation to surgery day I was provided the tools to make an informed decision and without hesitation was excited for my new life. Dr. Hunter and his staff are amazing care givers.
On December 15th 2015 while awaiting for my surgery to begin I knew when I awoken my life would not be the same. Boy was I right. Fast forward to today and I am happy to say I’ve lost nearly 116 pounds. I’ve gone from a 50 inch waist to a 33 inch waist. From a 3XL shirt to a large. A half of flight of stairs would render me breathless now I’m conquering 20 flights a day and stepping well over 15000 steps on my fit bit daily.
I owe my life to Virginia Mason Bariatric Center. I’m no longer struggling with my weight or poor self-image. I’m living a more productive and healthier life style. If there is anything I wish more in life it’s having the ability to share my story and inspire others to seek the assistance of regaining their health. I did it and so can YOU.
September 17 - Kent Smith
My name is Kent Smith, and I live in Redmond, Washington . I have been a patient of Virginia Mason for over 16 years, and have thought very highly of this organization during this time. In July of 2015 I was experiencing tremendous pain in my hip that made it extremely difficult to be able to walk. I had played competitive sports all of my life, so it came as a shock that I might need a hip replacement. The thought of giving up sports was quite distressing. I met with Dr. Cara Beth Lee later that month and she said that based upon the X-rays, I would need a hip replacement. At 54 I thought I was too young to have a hip replacement. Well, I discovered this was not the case. In October of 2015, I had a hip replacement, and it was a life-changer in so many respects. My experience at Virginia Mason was absolutely amazing! What made a difference to me was how thoughtful every staff member was in treating me. This has been consistent all through the years as a patient. The staff members have a sincere desire to care for patients. As I was lying in the hospital bed, I decided that I would like to volunteer for Virginia Mason. In February of 2016, I made contact with the staff to volunteer at the hospital, and have been helping in the Orthopedics ward ever since. I love volunteering and meeting patients that have had knee or hip replacements. Hopefully my experience will help them through their recovery. I have realized how important it is to have a human connection in life. I now walk, bicycle, play tennis and wakeboard with absolutely no pain. Thank you to the staff at Virginia Mason for giving me my active life back.
August 21 - Saad Ismail
If it wasn’t for Virginia Mason doctors who included Nathan Avery at the emergency room upon my arrival, who contacted Dr. Scott Helton (who was already home after a long, long day performing surgery), I would not be alive today. They are the heroes, not me. All I had to do is lay down and be quiet, while they performed the miracle surgery that saved my life.
Once at Virginia Mason, ER staff immediately began to care for me. They instinctively understood my need for my wife to stay with me at all times and made space for her as well. They did all they could to lower my pain level and made me comfortable while we waited for the tests and scans to be evaluated.
The ICU nursing staff was top notch and cared for me with much tenderness. The care I received for the next six days was, of course, phenomenal. Working as a team each member of the staff enabled healing to occur by ensuring that I was well cared for. Each staff member was efficient at their duties, friendly and thoughtful. I wish I had time to list all of the many kindnesses shown during that week but there are just too many. From our arrival when my towels were shaped like a swan on my bed making us feel that we were on holiday instead of a hospital, to the kind gift of a Liverpool (his favorite Soccer team) bathing set from Victoria, the walks they took me on sharing insights of Seattle since they knew we had just relocated, caring for my wife bringing drinks and linens, etc., etc.
Although words cannot adequately express my appreciation for the work they performed to save my life, I will always try and convey how grateful I am for the care I received at Virginia Mason. I have probably spent over a year of my life in hospitals on three continents nursing family members back to health and Virginia Mason is without a doubt the finest facility I have ever experienced.
I am forever humbled and thankful for the caring I received from all staff at Virginia Mason.
August 14 - Jeff Marcell
I live in the Seattle area and I am an avid outdoor athlete in my late 40’s. I’ve spent the last decade being obsessed with mountain sports including mountain climbing, hiking, and trail running.
In an ongoing effort to challenge myself and stay fit, I started running obstacle course races this year. Unfortunately, while at a recent race I slipped on an obstacle, landed at an awkward angle and broke my ankle requiring surgery.
I was told I needed to find a specialist to perform the surgery and I immediately thought of Virginia Mason because of their reputation for quality healthcare. I was encouraged to speak with Dr. David Belfie in their Orthopedics and Sports Medicine group and when I met with him he could not have been more professional and personable. He explained exactly what had happened to my ankle using my x-ray and what he recommended for treatment. I’d never broken a bone or had major surgery before this and Dr. Belfie calmly let me know that it could be fixed and I’d recover and be able to get back outdoors in a few months.
Every encounter with the Virginia Mason team was exceptional and underscored I was in the right place with the right professionals. Surgery went without a hitch and my recovery is going just as planned. While I still have more healing to do, I am very happy with my experience. Thanks to everyone at Virginia Mason, I’ll be climbing mountains, hitting trails, and maybe even running another obstacle race very soon.
July 31 - Linda & Traci Roberson
We are Linda and Traci Roberson, mother and daughter breast cancer survivors. Linda is a three year breast cancer survivor and Traci is a three month breast cancer survivor. Both were diagnosed, had surgery and treatment at Virginia Mason. We had the same oncologist, surgeon and radiation oncologist. Currently we are healthy, happy and cancer free!
July 13 - Marlene O'Keefe
Marlene was nominated to be the Virginia Mason Match Ball Patient Hero by her daughter, Kari.
My mom (Marlene) had a tumor and one of her ureters removed at Virginia Mason last year. It was a very scary time as the tumor was thought to be cancerous. The doctors wanted to be aggressive with the surgical removal, to make sure they removed all the cancer. She had the most *AMAZING* care at Virginia Mason and is 100% cancer free!! We thank God so much for the outstanding care of the physicians and nursing staff at Virginia Mason!
July 9 - Jim Caldwell
I am a proud recipient of a reconstructed esophagus as the result of stage II esophageal cancer, due to years of untreated GERD. It's basically acid reflux, when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus, which causes GERD.
One year ago, June 8th, 2015, I was diagnosed with cancer. That day forward I decided cancer would not take me or define. I knew then I was ready to fight it, but I couldn't do it alone. This is why I give my complete gratitude to the expertise of the many doctors and nurses and medical staff along my journey. However, it was the final step, surgery, at the skilled hands of Dr. Donald E. Low, thoracic surgeon at VM, Doctor extraordinaire; I refer to as part on my 'Dream Team’, which completed my treatment, that life saving procedure. He and his entire warm and caring staff of resident surgeons, nurses, Physicians Assistant and others too numerous to mention, I give an extra measure of gratitude.
In closing, a quote that that has given my life meaning, 'Sometimes the strength within you is not a big fiery flame for all to see, it is just a tiny spark that whispers ever so softly, "You got this, keep going."
Today I continue to fight. I am cancer free. I am a survivor!
July 5 - Pat Ogawa
This may save your life, it probably saved mine. On Thursday, I went on a usual stand up paddle board training session at dawn, solo this time since our usual group raced the night before and were going out the next day. I ran into a buddy at mile 3 and turned around and then finished the last mile against a strong headwind. I went home, had a smoothie and jumped on a conference call.
Here is where it gets interesting. I started to get a pain on the left side of my chest. I thought this was just a strain since I went a little hard. This one felt a little different, I tried to lay down and see if that would help. It didn't. I texted Margie about the chest pain, took 3 aspirin and changed my clothes. No text back, so of course I call Uber to take me Virginia Mason (don't do this, call 911).
I took another conference call on the way to the hospital, I had to concentrate a bit more to get me words out (don't do this either). I get the hospital, tell them I have chest pains and they go into a mini code blue. (tons of questions, EKG, CT, blood tests). All turn out fine. This is now about 3 hours in. The ER doc wants to run one more blood test. This one shows up with elevated proteins and enzymes. There is something wrong, more cardiologists show up. Best option is to do an angiogram to find out what is going on. (this one is very geeky since you can watch the whole procedure in hi def with some oxy drugs).
They did find a 70% blockage. This is 50/50 case to stent or not. One more test to check pressure differential and they decide to put a stent in.
I spent one night in the hospital with a little bit of pain and a little sleep. I am home now feeling decent after watching the NBA game.
Thanks to Dr. Longo and the Virginia Mason Institute team. I think it was not my time to go yet. If this happens latter this year, 2 years from now. I don't think I survive.
If you feel any signs of heart attack:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain
June 25 - Mike Dekema
I have been a patient of Dr. Lance Larson at Virginia Mason in Bellevue since moving here from California in 1999. Four years ago, during my fortuitously scheduled annual exam, Dr. Larson detected a node on my prostate. Even though my PSA wasn't really elevated, he insisted I see a urologist.
I met with Dr. John Corman at Virginia Mason in downtown Seattle and a biopsy determined that I had a very angry form of prostate cancer. Having never had any noticeable symptoms, that came as a complete shock.
Dr. Corman and his team worked closely with me and my family to help us understand our treatment options and we decided to go with surgery. Making huge decisions in such stressful times is pretty horrid and all of our doctors worked patiently with us to help us be informed.
Today, I have ongoing treatment with my oncologist, Dr. Rosales at the Virginia Mason downtown cancer center and I continue to live a normal life. Just visiting the cancer center is kind of alarming but Dr. Rosales projects a comforting degree of confidence.
I am alive today because my wife has always pushed me into having annual exams, because Dr. Larson found the node and convinced me it was a big deal and because Dr. Corman, Dr. Rosales and everyone else at Virginia Mason have provided such excellent care. And just as important, I've decided to live a happy life with tremendous support in that effort from my wife, our two sons and our entire family.
The lesson from this? Be sure to have all those exams you know you should have and wake up every morning looking to have just one perfect day. There is far too much fun still to be had.
May 21 - Liam Co
Liam just turned 2 when we moved to Seattle end of 2015. It had been a tedious and long investigation since he started failing his milestone hearing tests at 6 months. He would stand by our window and shout out “Space noodle” every morning. In less than 2 weeks at VM, the careful and prompt actions of Dr. Zietler and the audiologist staff at Virginia Mason helped us to identify the cause of his hearing loss and fit him with the hearing aids he so desperately needed, not to mention serving as a big support for us as a family after our move. I told Liam that his “dinosaur ears” would help him get super hearing like a t-rex and that’s when “space nee-nle” started to became “space needle”. Today, although he still has problems closing his mouth when he speaks, the last half a year with his aids has already made a huge difference. We quickly realized the extent of his auditory memory when he began to memorize and sing songs, recite rhymes and pronounce every name of the construction vehicles and dinosaurs he so loves with great care. To date, his favorite word he says with pride and precision is “pachycephalosaurus”, a dinosaur he fell in love with at the Science Center. Liam's language abilities has grown in leaps and bounds and he finds it a lot less frustrating to share his feelings and his needs with us. We are very grateful for all the support and care we have received.
May 7 - Madelyn Murakami
Madelyn is 4.5 years old. Three years ago, her team at Virginia Mason confirmed she was deaf and helped our family through the process to qualify her for cochlear implants. This involved many appointments, sedated procedures, skilled surgery and a lot of coordination. It was important to us to have the implant surgery before Madelyn turned two because of the development of the brain and its changes after the age of two. Within three months, Madelyn received the implant surgery. This was very fast! Due to the quick action of the team, Madelyn had access to sound at just the right time. Cochlear implants aren’t a perfect substitute for natural hearing, but with therapy and a great Virginia Mason pediatric audiologist that coordinates with her [awesome!] school, Listen and Talk, Madelyn is learning to both listen and talk, just like her peers. She loves to sing, listen to music, talk on her pretend phone with everyone and is learning a second language. Her increased ability to communicate has opened up a new world to her and replaced fear with joy and love for people. We are so thankful to God for the compassionate care she receives at Virginia Mason and Listen and Talk. Connecting with Madelyn through spoken language is a huge gift and we enjoy seeing her flourish in a hearing world.
April 30 - Michael Young
I originally went to Virginia Mason for ACL Surgery, then found myself at the site again two years later for knee reconstruction surgery after a sledding incident with my family. I visited the same orthopedic doctor as I did when I originally tore my ACL. Dr. Michael Morris worked with me to come up with several goals and realistic expectations about the outcomes of the surgery. After the operation, the flexible staff worked with my request to go home the same day and helped me out with pain management. I was able to meet with my doctor and physical therapist conveniently in the same appointment. At some point I will need a knee replacement, but so far I am back to skiing, mountain biking, and standing in section 139 for the “Full 90”!
April 16 - Dakota Grim
Dakota moved from Las Vegas to Des Moines, WA to attend Highline College and play on the women's soccer team. A hip impingement forced her to red shirt and sit out her freshman year, but in November of 2015 the Virginia Mason sports medicine staff, Dr. Cara Beth Lee's expertise, the great staff at Virginia Mason and the wonderful physical therapist they work with, got her into surgery and then onto physical therapy. Now, Dakota is on the fast track to getting back on the pitch! Thank you, VIRGINIA MASON!
April 3 - Kyra Craig
Growing up with odd feet never occurred to me as a problem at 5 years old. It wasn’t until I started playing premier soccer in the peak of my confidence faltering years that I realized that having severe bunions was not going to be something I could just brush off. At age 11 I had to confront one of my biggest insecurities, and something that could potentially put me back years with the only sport I’ve ever loved. I started going to Virginia Mason and meeting with the easy-going Dr. Coulter who openly laid out all of my options. Years later, thanks to the entire Virginia Mason medical team, I have received opportunities that I never before expected. Since my surgery I have played high school varsity soccer, I play on a division one premier soccer team, and have gone to nationals for a soccer tournament in North Carolina. I even followed in the footsteps of my late father as I coached a U-05 soccer team for Auburn. Soccer has continued to be a deeply rooted piece of my life and has brought me into some of my greatest friendships through away games with the ECS and the undeniable EBFG spirit and I truly believe that without the heartfelt care of the Virginia Mason staff I would not be the person, player, and fan that I am today!
March 19 - Asher Wilson
I have also been a Sounders fan since the first NASL game against Denver back in Spring of 1974. Virginia Mason has been my healthcare provider since the early '80s. At that time their smoking cessation program helped me quit after 30 pack years. Since 1995 the sleep disorders clinic has permitted me to live a normal life notwithstanding my sleep apnea. Three years ago I was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The support and treatment received from my Pulmonologist, Dr. Gerbino and my Internist, Dr. Paul Smith have been essential in maintaining an active life style and acceptable quality of life. We are lucky to have Virginia Mason as a resource in the community.
March 6 - Paul Macfadden
I was born and raised in Edmonds, WA and started playing youth soccer at 6 years old. My dad was the president of the state referees association and I quickly realized that I was a better ref than I was a player. I enlisted in the Air Force after graduation from high school and set off to see the world.
I continued to play and referee everywhere I went. While stationed in Germany I was diagnosed with diagnosed with bladder cancer, high grade transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) in January 1996. My doctor, Dr. Lassen, had gone to med school and trained under a man named Ben Gibbons who worked at Virginia Mason in Urology. After fighting the cancer for nearly 2 years, I was medically retired and sent home with many concerns. Dr. Lassen mentioned that Dr. Gibbons and his medical partner Dr. Thomas “Randy” Pritchett were the best Urologists in Seattle and I should do all I can to see them.
Just days after coming home in December of 1997 I was at a family Christmas party. My mom had been an RN for 50 years and her best friend from nursing school, Harriett Smith, began asking me all about my condition. As fate would have it, Harriett was still working part time for Virginia Mason in Urology and her doctor was none other than Randy Pritchett. I have been a patient ever since and still see Dr. Pritchett to this day. I am now a 20 year cancer survivor and credit my life to Dr. Pritchett and the entire staff at Virginia Mason Urology department.
2015 Virginia Mason Match Ball Patient Heroes
November 1 - Kris Sternberg
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2010 after finding a lump on my breast that was not apparent on mammogram. My diagnosis was carried out very quickly thanks to Dr. Tammira Price; the oncology department set me up with all the necessary appointments and tests within days of my diagnosis. While I did get a second opinion, I decided to remain with my care team at Virginia Mason because of the aggressive and organized approach the team brought to my care plan.
My wonderful surgeon was Dr. Wechter who, along with her staff, demonstrated great care and support throughout the process of my mastectomy. The surgery was very uneventful and my result was excellent, without complications. They were very thorough in discussing their recommendations and options for treatment and I felt that all of my and my family’s concerns were addressed in detail.
The care I received at Virginia Mason from my oncologist Dr Jacobs for the past five years has always been very thoughtful and compassionate. I will be continuing my oncology care at Virginia Mason as I have confidence in the staff to continue to watch with me for any new oncological issues that may arise.
My family and friends who provided me with amazing love and support during the months of my treatment were all thankful for the care I received at Virginia Mason. I continue to enjoy excellent health at my five year cancer-free anniversary thanks to Virginia Mason!
October 28 - Michele Goossens
My name is Michele, I came from Belgium to America to build a life in the land of opportunity. Two summers ago, life was great. I had just turned 40, gotten engaged to the most amazing man, was planning a wedding and was about to leave on a business trip.... Suddenly, I found myself in hell on earth. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. How could this be? I am too young? Everyone in my family is healthy? I don't smoke? I eat healthy? I just had my first mammogram that January and they said it all looked great? My world fell apart. Then I met Dr. Janie Grumley and her amazing team at Virginia Mason. They are my heroes and saved my life. Without this team, my fiancée Josh, and my family by my side each day, I couldn't have made it through months of treatments. I am really lucky. A benign cyst ended up revealing a deadly cancer beneath. I want to tell every woman and man to self exam, follow your gut and don't hesitate. Today, I feel very healthy and grateful...I am a survivor!
October 25 - Lynda Weatherby
My name is Lynda Weatherby and I’m a breast cancer survivor. Until a couple years ago, I thought I was an early detection success story – but as it turns out, I was wrong. Instead, I’m among the many women whose breast cancer recurred and metastasized. I've learned that up to 30% of women with stage 1-3 breast cancers will recur and metastasize - I never knew that until it happened to me. I would not be alive today, I am certain, without the amazing care and alertness of my Virginia Mason providers, who caught my sneaky cancer not just once, but twice. The second diagnosis came just in time, just before life threatening tumors at the base of my brain and on a facial nerve had spread beyond the point of treatment.
Today I am 2.5 years out from my frightening recurrence and so thankful to be doing very well. I am keeping myself as healthy as I can and I pay a lot of attention to nutrition and living a healing lifestyle while I anticipate, ultimately, a cure for my advanced breast cancer. I believe I will live to see that day.
I am so grateful for the help and healing I've received from so many friends and loved ones along my breast cancer journey, and for the wonderful providers at Virginia Mason who've helped make today possible for me and my family.
October 4 - Natalie Margolis
My husband and I moved to Seattle from a very rural community in New York State. Shortly after moving here I began to experience pain in my right hip. I saw Dr. Clabeaux at Virginia Mason who affirmed that a total join replacement was needed. I met with my oncologist to get medical clearance and found my Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma had returned. I was not able to have the hip replacement until finishing four rounds of chemotherapy. After the surgery I felt like a new person. Now I was to enjoy a lot of what Seattle has to offer without the constant pain. Thank you to the staff at Virginia Mason who has been wonderful.
September 5 - DJ Sughrim
After battling a year of knee pain and immobilization I finally headed to Virginia Mason to see Dr. Mike Morris who also happens to be the Sounders FC team physician. Once I met Dr. Morris I left the hospital with complete optimism. He was sure to get me back on my feet and back to doing the things I love such as playing basketball, fishing, and working out. Thanks to the fantastic group of physical therapist that virgin Mason offered I am now a very successful personal trainer and sprint coach and back to all my hobbies.
August 30 - Roberta Chin
My family and I have in Seattle all our lives and I have been a Virginia Mason patient for almost 40 years. Our kids were born at Virginia Mason. Our twin boys were born five weeks early so they spent their first few weeks in the NICU. They were tiny preemies and were pretty sickly as infants. It’s been a long time ago, now, but I still remember the warmth and kindness that the staff offered during our stays. We even got to have donuts in the morning with the break room. After the kids were discharged, on our trips back to Virginia Mason we would drop by to say hello to the NICU staff, always receiving a warm greeting and hugs for the kids.
In 2012, my 21 year old son suffered a stroke at home, then spent 21 days at the Virginia Masin. He was brought in to Virginia Mason in an ambulance. He spent three days in a medically induced coma where he was fighting for his life. They told us that when he was admitted, he was within 20 minutes of dying. On top of the stroke, he also got reflux pneumonia. The stroke paralyzed the left side of his body, he lost his speech, swallow, ability to walk without assistance and experienced a lot of discomfort. He spent his days in the hospital, battling the effects of the stroke, violent hiccups, a perforated esophagus, and working in rehabilitation to regain his senses and strength. As a parent, it breaks your heart to see your child struggling to do the basics; that the day before were effortless. It was a stressful time and each day we hoped for improvement particularly with his swallow. It was 17 days when he finally managed a shallow swallow. We were elated, as it was a turning point to get nutrition into him. He was discharged after 21 days. It’s been just over 2 years now, and he has recovered and is doing well.
So, I have one last story to share. This past year, I also had a medical challenge. Earlier in the year I had a mammogram that was clean. Then about three months later, after a visit to Virginia Mason where I discussed my family history with cancer, Dr. Rothblatt suggested a baseline MRI. In July 2014, the MRI showed a spot and after a biopsy I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There is a lot of cancer in my family so I was really scared and emotional. After one of my early appointment, I stopped by patient relations and found myself in Ann Haggensens’ office as I needed a friendly hello. Ann has been a great support as I weathered the winding path through the maze of medical decisions. She gave me a hug and told me that I was in good hands with Virginia Mason’s team. They were instrumental in determining the best course of treatment while listening to my needs. I am so blessed that the medical team found the cancer in a very early stage. I worked with the Team and decided on a mastectomy. As of July of this 2015, I am cancer free.
Virginia Mason is our medical home. We have had so many great providers that have been supportive and caring. As a family we have traveled thru many different medical specialties and always felt that we received the best care. Each of our experiences has enriched our lives and we have made friends at each stop.
August 16 - Dana Manciagli
I’m battling cancer for the 3rd time right now. And I’m scared.
I’ve had surgeries and radiation, including a double mastectomy in 2005, and now I’m in the middle of a very aggressive chemotherapy program. Sadly, I lost my identical twin sister to breast cancer just one year ago. Tracy battled cancer three times too, yet it metastasized into her liver.
Virginia Mason has been my medical family since my first diagnosis in 2002. My internist, oncologist, breast surgeon, radiologist, cancer genetics expert, and many others work as a team, constantly collaborating about my case and communicating with me regularly. The nurses and staff are so helpful and caring, too.
I’m also surrounded by amazing family and friends. Tons!
I go out of my way to see as many people as possible when I have energy. I have two sons, Shane and Chad, who are my pride and joy and stay very close to me. And my boyfriend of 10 years just proposed and we were married two weeks ago!
For our wedding celebration, Mathis and I have said “absolutely no gifts…only donations to the Virginia Mason Cancer Institute.” It’s great to have happy events to plan, including some mini-vacations coming up! My Virginia Mason doctors know I need to be finished with radiation by the first week of November since we’re going to Hawaii!
I am a cancer conqueror, thanks to my medical family at Virginia Mason. I will crush this!
- The “Dana-Mathis Fund” has been started to support patient care at Virginia Mason Cancer Institute. This is my medical family. Your generous contribution is so greatly appreciated!
August 1 - RW Bishop
RW Bishop lives in Lynnwood WA and is a kidney donor. As a child, RW had a life threatening illness. He believes he survived his illness to fulfill his purpose in life…
“It was summer of 2011, my daughter was dating a young man Named Jeremy Behrant. learned that Jeremy was born with bad kidneys. Only one kidney functioned since birth and at age 25 it stopped working. He had to go through dialysis three times a week for about four hours each time to filter his blood. I came home from visiting my daughter and could not sleep for two nights thinking about his condition. Then it occurred to me… I have two kidneys, why can’t I give one to him? I passed all health requirements and was approved to give my kidney in 2012. I was not a perfect match for Jeremy so I decided to be a part of the “Living donor program”. This means that I could give my Kidney to another person that was a good match.
In March 2015, they found a perfect match for my Kidney in a lady in Atlanta. I donated on March 9th, 2015. Today, 5 months later, my son-in law Jeremy, is doing well and almost at 100% and we are all thankful for his new life. Susan Edwards, the lady who received my Kidney, is alive and well and will get a chance to see her grand kids grow up. We stay in contact and I am very happy to see how my donation has given two other people a new chance at life. Maybe this is the reason I was healed as a child, so that I could give back. For me it was never a sacrifice or a hardship. All I had to do was take six weeks off of work after the surgery. I also stopped drinking Coke and Mountain dew. That's been rough but I faced this adversity head on and I am victorious in my battle to not drink Soda-pop.
For me to decide to donate was not hard. It was natural as in my life I had never before met someone that had a need for a kidney. I can do everything I did before I donated except I do not drink pop and I am not to take Advil. Not really a big sacrifice. Maybe to donate a kidney is not for everyone, but to the person who gets a kidney it is lifesaving. You changed their life for the better. Many people are not able to donate because of health reasons or other factors. But anyone can become an organ donor and most people can donate blood. I have given blood since I was 16 years old and even giving blood makes a tremendous difference to those in need of it.
How many opportunities in life do you get to save a life? Or make someone’s life better. Most people I am sure if they saw someone drowning would jump in and help them. Most people would stop at a car accident and give assistance to someone in need. If the circumstance presents itself, most of us would not think twice to help out someone in a critical situation. By being a blood donor, or organ donor, or even a kidney donor. You change the life of others by your actions and that also can change your own life.”
July 18 - Cathy Gitchell
In September 2013 I went for my wellness test and my doctor didn’t like the looks of my laryngitis. I told it had been around for three years. He did some tests and sent me to Virginia Mason. At Virginia Mason, they ran tests and found a large mass between my vocal chords. I had been talking with the membrane in my throat instead of my vocal chords.
They sent me to Virginia Mason’s Doctor Stephen Bayles and I was told that I needed surgery to remove the growth and a biopsy to see if it was cancerous. On Halloween 2013 they did the biopsy and a tracheotomy. The next day, they removed the tumor and found that there was a rare cancer and my voice box. After the procedure, I woke up unable to speak.
The nurses and staff made sure that I had a supply of pens and paper so I could write down all my questions. The stomas in my throat kept growing shut so Doctor Bayles had to reopen it several times. Finally he used my chest and shoulder muscles to attach and hold it open. Unfortunately the smaller stoma opening made me ineligible for a voice implant so I now speak with an electrolarynx.
Over the next year of healing my throat, I also endured two knee replacement surgeries. I can now take short walks without my walker and hope to do my five mile a day walks again soon. I now work as a patient relations representative. Every time I am close to the floor where I was treated at Virginia Mason, I make sure to stop by and say hello to thank them. I like them to see me; their success.
I can’t say enough good things about Virginia Mason and their caring attitude and their involvement with their patients. Everywhere else I had felt like a number. At Virginia Mason I felt like a well-cared for human being with purpose.
July 3 - Patti Margeson
My name is Patti and I'm 52 years old. I am social, outgoing, outspoken, a little ornery, kind and loving. I think the ornery part made me a GREAT breast cancer fighter! I have been married to the man I love for 30 years! We have two adult children, who choose to hang out with us, so I think we did a good job as parents. I also have horses, cats, chickens, and a new dog. Today, my life is kind of awesome.
But in November 2011, a not-so-wonderful thing happened. I got a call I will never forget. My recent mammogram showed an area of concern. The biopsy I had a week later confirmed that I had breast cancer. When the nurse called to talk to me about the results, I jokingly said, "You're going to ruin my cleavage, aren't you?" I'm glad I have a bizarre sense of humor because it helped me so much in the months to come.
Within two hours of that first call, the nicest woman phoned saying she had everything scheduled, like the way travel agents used to do it all for you — one stop shopping. I did get a second option, but ultimately chose Virginia Mason where my treatment went as smoothly as possible. That's not to say there weren't challenges. For one thing, a genetic test showed I was positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. In addition to breast cancer, mutations in the BRCA1 gene also increase the risk of ovarian and fallopian tube cancers. I was not ready to make the choice for a mastectomy so I talked through my options with my surgeon and went for an aggressive oncoplasty. In other words, I got a bilateral breast reduction and came out of my cancer with one breast surgery and two beautiful breasts. Virginia Mason is the only breast cancer program in the region to perform this type of oncoplastic surgery so it was an easy decision for me. I could not afford that much time off work as a private business owner.
My surgeon and the Virginia Mason team that took care of me were simply the best, their team medicine approach was a comfort. And my family and friends really stepped in to help when I needed them. My best friend Jenny came all the way from California and slept in my room for both my surgeries. I had several breast cancer survivor friends who helped me understand what I was feeling. They are the reason I now go out and help other women who are facing this for the first time. My own kids and my daycare families cooked and cleaned and made sure my day-care business stayed open without a hitch.
More than three years later, I'm healthy and cancer free. But my life is definitely different because of cancer. For one thing, I realized I was not living to my full potential. I got that horse farm I always wanted and I fell in love all over again with my husband. I know that the reality of my life today is that the BRCA1 gene mutation is in my family and can affect my children, siblings, nieces, nephews and any grandkids I might have. So now I'm a fighter for all of us. I participate in fundraisers for breast cancer research and I visit with and help women who are facing the same things I've faced. The best thing about my life today is that I'm living it to the fullest.
June 20 - Lori Mejia
"June 2013 was an exciting time for our family. My husband Mike had taken a job on Bainbridge Island two years earlier so we had been commuting between there and our home in Springfield, Oregon. I was finally able to move to be with my husband, but also scared and sad to leave my family, friends and job of 27 years. I knew it would be an adventure and I was up for it.
Our excitement turned to fear. After my being on Bainbridge for less than two weeks I found a lump on my breast. I called my husband who rushed home and we called Virginia Mason. The next morning our world turned upside down. We took the ferry over to Seattle, and I was taken right in for a mammogram and ultrasound. Everyone was so kind and supportive I felt lucky that I was at Virginia Mason.
The next day, we received the call that we were dreading. The nurse on the other line, Jeannie, was so kind, sympathetic and supportive. She explained that I had breast cancer and set up my appointments with the surgeon, oncologist and radiologist. A few weeks later we met with Dr. Janie Grumley. What an amazing doctor! She assured me that she would be with me every step of the way.
I went through surgery on August 13, 2013 and went home the next day. Two weeks later I received a call saying that I was going to need chemo. Dr. Grumley called, letting me know that she was there for me and we would get through this together. Once I again I thanked God for bringing her into my life.
I decided to go into chemo once a week for six months and was lucky enough to have my parents and sister come and visit and be with me on chemo days. On April 30, 2014 we celebrated my last chemo day! My family designed a shirt for me that said "Last Chemo Conquered". What an amazing feeling and uplifting day. I felt so blessed and safe to be in the hands of all the staff of Virginia Mason. Today and I am nearing two years of being a survivor and look forward to life and helping others. I owe so much to the staff at Virginian Mason! I am a Survivor thanks to every one of the more than 30 staff that touched my life throughout this most challenging time. It is an honor to represent Virginia Mason and breast cancer as a survivor!
In Dr Grumley’s words I say to all of those going through cancer of any kind, be positive and FIGHT ON!!"
June 13 - Frances Marion Grabber
Frances Marion Grabber is 91 years old and a survivor of lung cancer. In April 2015 she had a tumor removed from her lungs. She was elated to be honored as a match ball patient hero and feels fortunate to have been treated at Virginia Mason because they caught something that they weren’t necessarily supposed to be looking for. She thanks Dr. Hubka for making her feel so comfortable and like she was the most important person in the world. Frances is now cancer free and says that the secret to living a long and happy life is finding the right partner. She has been married to her husband, Lou (93 years old) for almost 69 years.
May 31 - Amanda Clark
Amanda Clark is from Seattle, WA and is a survivor of acute myeloid leukemia. In 2012 at age 22, soon after graduating from Gonzaga University, Amanda was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and admitted to Virginia Mason for 60 days of chemotherapy and inpatient treatment. She was advised she would need a bone marrow transplant in order to survive. Her sister, Kelsey, was tested and was found to be a perfect match for her transplant. Kelsey is a hero for stepping up to save her sister’s life as she underwent significant testing to determine if she was a perfect match to be her sister’s donor; all while continuing and successfully finishing her Freshman year at Gonzaga University in Spokane, making multiple trips back and forth over the mountains almost every weekend and school holidays/breaks. The transplant took place on May 12, 2012. Today, Amanda is three years post-transplant and helping other young adults with cancer through her volunteer work on the board of Thrive Through Cancer, a group dedicated to serving young adults diagnosed with cancer. Amanda is eternally grateful to her oncology team, led by Dr. David Aboulafia, and the countless staff of Virginia Mason for saving her life. Amanda is an avid sports fan who played soccer for 15 years and has been attending Sounders FC matches since its inaugural season in MLS. She is happy to be back supporting Sounders FC after having to miss the 2012 season due to her treatment.
May 27 - Jerry Hisle
Jerry Hisle is from Seattle, WA and is a survivor of throat cancer. This is his story…“I was diagnosed in the middle of June 2012 and given six months without treatment. What a shocker. You have to let go after the initial emotional shock and go to that positive place we all have. I didn’t miss a day of work during treatment. Your concerns are no longer about you but of your family. Two weeks later my brother Joe was diagnosed with two types of cancer. I can remember calling him and saying, 'Sundance, this is Butch' (from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Not too sure how we will get out of this one. What this did for us was give us an opportunity to spend the next two years with each other through treatments along with the good and bad days. We were there along with a lot of other family and Virginia Mason team members. My brother Joe passed away in June 2014 but I am still going strong and it is due to my Virginia Mason Family. So hats off to the entire Radiation crew in the basement of Virginia Mason, all of the ladies on the 2nd floor for Chemo treatment, Philip for the Chemo study, Dr. Bales, Dr. Vishnu, Dr. Mitsuyama and of course my loving wife and family members.”
May 23 - Tim Maloney
Tim is from Aberdeen, Washington and is a survivor of melanoma. He is a proud husband and father. A former film and television editor, Tim now spends his time raising four children & establishing a foundation to help patients & families battling melanoma. He’s grateful for the care he received at Virginia Mason. Tim looks forward to retiring in Maui and traveling the world.
April 26 - John Miner
John Miner is a survivor of a cerebral hematoma and three deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgeries. He is a principal at Thorton Creek School and his favorite Sounders FC player is Obafemi Martins. John is proud husband, father of two and grandfather four grandkids.
April 4 - Judy Hay
Judy is a lung cancer survivor from Bellevue, WA. She is an avid Seattle sports fan, a mother of two sons and grandmother of triplets. Judy thanks her team of doctors at Virginia Mason for the extraordinary treatment she received in fighting lung cancer. She is committed to getting the word out about the frightening rise in non-smoking women and to seeking a cure for all cancers in the near future.
March 24 - Bill Zabriskie
Bill Zabriskie is a survivor of prostate cancer. He is from Sammamish, Washington and has coached soccer with the American youth soccer organization.
March 14 - Mary Cranny
Mary Cranny of Seattle, WA is a survivor of pancreatic cancer. Mary is a community activist and mother of four children; they love soccer and the Pacific Northwest. Mary overcame incredible odds to survive pancreatic cancer because of her treatment at Virginia Mason and she is now committed to spreading hope to other pancreatic cancer victims.
March 8 - Matthew Morton
Matthew Morton of Ellensburg, WA is a 40-year-old survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and father of two young children. Matthew was cared for by the oncology team at Virginia Mason Cancer Institute and part of a clinical research trial offered by the Benaroya Research Institute. Both medical teams continue to cheer him on in his recovery and as the Match Ball Patient Hero at the Sounders FC's first 2015 MLS home match. This was the first time Michael and his son have attended a Sounders FC match and they were excited to take part in the match ball presentation together!