To treat a cancer patient with special needs, it takes a devoted team
Candi Tyree is a 38-year-old woman who likes telling jokes and watching football, especially the Seahawks and the Washington State Cougars. She has been the equipment coach for the Auburn Riverside Ravens High School football team for more than 21 years.
Candi has been through more than most in her life’s journey. Born with cerebral palsy, she has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. In mid-January, she completed a grueling six-month course of chemotherapy for an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
Candi is blessed with a loving family — and a care team at MultiCare Regional Cancer Center in Auburn who also fell in love with her.
“Every patient is special,” says Alicia Duvall, RN, clinic supervisor. “But Candi was very special. There are patients who need more and we are glad to do whatever we can.”
“Candi has such a bright spirit,” says Cassie Eliason, RN, one of two infusion nurses who were most involved in her care. “She has a light and brightness that she brings into the room with her.”
Given Candi’s condition, the care team worked closely with her family to make sure they were communicating with her effectively. The clinic team also sought advice from Child Life Specialists at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, since they typically don’t work with pediatric patients.
“We adjusted our care to meet Candi’s needs and to communicate with her about what was happening,” said Eliason. “We wanted to make sure this was a safe, comfortable place for her. We had to make this fun for her. Her treatments lasted for hours at a time and we chatted a lot about football.”
Candi was diagnosed in late July 2018 after a persistent cough and severe chest pains prompted her parents to take her to the emergency department at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center. The family lives in Pacific.
“She couldn’t catch her breath,” says her father, Paul Tyree, a former EMT firefighter. “They sent her straight for a CT scan. I knew from my training they were looking for blood clots possibly caused by a knee surgery two weeks prior. But the doctor returned and said, ‘We found fluid around her heart, and a large mass in the center of her chest.’”
Candi was transferred to MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, where she had emergency surgery to drain the fluid, more blood tests and a biopsy. The biopsy confirmed that she had lymphoma.
After being in the hospital a week, she had a port installed in her chest for chemotherapy and was referred to the Auburn cancer team for treatment.
“Candi’s condition was very rare and the treatment regimen was one of the most aggressive for this type of lymphoma,” says Sasha Joseph, MD, Candi’s medical oncologist in Auburn.
“Dr. Joseph told us this was a very concerning matter, especially with Candi’s cerebral palsy,” Paul says. “We appreciated his honesty. Dr. Joseph asked Candi a lot of questions directly. He was able to pull out of her things we couldn’t.”
Candi underwent chemotherapy with a regimen that included her wearing a home infusion pump five days a week and coming into the clinic daily for a chemotherapy bag exchange. She did this every third week while also doing infusion visits for chemotherapy. Her regimen lasted approximately six months and Candi endured side effects including fatigue, bone pain, nausea and hair loss.
“One thing we learned is how strong Candi really is,” says her father. “We knew she was strong before, but she was incredible. We had talks, and she would tell me, ‘Dad, I’m scared.’ But then she’d say, ‘We are going to beat this.’”
Dr. Joseph remembers her first visit, when her entire family crowded into the exam room to support Candi — parents Jill and Paul, sisters Jennifer Warrick and Sarah Gould, and brothers-in-law Paul Warrick and Joshua Gould.
“We’re firm believers that God and family is everything,” says Candi’s mother, Jill.
“Her family is cohesive and bonded, a tight-knit group,” Dr. Joseph says. “They asked great questions. Her parents did a lot of the heavy lifting. Candi is very resilient. She always cracked jokes with me.”
Dawn Winebrenner, RN, OCN (oncology certified), a nurse in the Infusion Center, also enjoyed Candi’s sense of humor.
“Candi likes to joke around and so do I, so we hit it off,” Winebrenner says. “When she came in, she would ask, ‘Are you going to be my nurse today?’ When she was done with her treatments, she would always ask for a hug, which I was glad to give her.”
On her last day of treatment, Candi rang the bell signaling the end of her chemo, and other patients clapped and cheered. Many of these patients followed Candi’s progress on a Facebook page created by her father.
Candi is now in remission.
“Dr. Joseph told us that Candi’s cancer is ‘dead-dead,’” says her father. “None of this would have been possible without God, family support and the care team from the Auburn Cancer Center.”
Duvall set the family up with a MultiCare primary care physician in Covington for ongoing care.
“We did not have a family doctor before,” Paul says. “So, we’re very grateful. The team at Auburn has been wonderful. Now that it’s over, we’re going to make sure we get in there and see them every few weeks just to say hello.”
Celebrate Candi's remission and help fight cancer
To celebrate Candi's remission, join the MultiCare team, Candi and her family as they take steps to end cancer through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light The Night. The light and warmth generated delivers hope in time of despair, community in place of loneliness and life-saving research and support for cancer patients and their families.
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