Walking together, while apart
Local breast cancer survivor looks forward to supporting virtual Come Walk With Me this fall
Cheron Stanley remembers being met with cheers, a sea of pink and an overwhelming sense of empowerment when she set foot on the Come Walk With Me starting line for the first time in 2019.
It was a feeling she’s familiar with as a two-time breast cancer survivor. But for Cheron, seeing the collective impact of so many others who had overcome their own battles with cancer made the moment that much more powerful.
“It was amazing because there were so many of us,” Cheron says. “When I took the group photo with all of the other survivors, it brought tears to my eyes to see that many people had fought and won.”
Cheron’s first diagnosis came in 2012, then another in 2013. She and her oncologist decided on a bi-lateral mastectomy and radiation as the best treatment options when the cancer returned. The recovery was tough, but not as tough as Cheron. She had surgery on a Friday and went back to work the following Tuesday.
“I still had my drains in under my scrubs because I was a medical assistant,” Cheron recalls. “I had to keep working because I needed my health insurance.”
Then came the radiation; once per day for six and a half weeks. Cheron drove to a nearby facility to receive treatments on her lunch break – yet another valiant display of her strength and determination. After completing her treatment plan, she was given the “all-clear” and had been in remission ever since.
Cheron went on to use her own patient experience to help guide her work as an Ambulatory Care Navigator with MultiCare, where she still works today.
Then 2020 hit.
Amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic in June, Cheron underwent an emergency procedure for a hernia repair at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. The procedure went well, but considering her history with cancer, doctors decided to collect a tissue sample for testing. Cheron carried on with her recovery and put the surgery behind her. A few weeks later, she received a phone call from a familiar phone number: the MultiCare Regional Cancer Center.
“When I saw that number pop up, I thought, ‘Oh, they must be calling to remind me of my annual checkup,’” Cheron says. “But instead, they were calling because they found breast cancer cells in the tissue sample. I was stunned. I thought there had to have been some kind of mistake. It was two days before my eight-year cancer-free-aversary.”
As devastating as it was to receive an unexpected diagnosis for the third time, Cheron’s positive spirit persevered. She’s grateful that the cancer cells were caught earlier this time around, which makes her optimistic for a less invasive treatment plan.
“There is no stage 1 or stage 2 or any of that this time because it’s called metastatic cancer,” Cheron explains. “It’s not in the breast area anymore, but it’s still breast cancer cells. They’re unique in the body. Hopefully, this is the last of it.”
Adding to her positive outlook is the excitement she has for participating in Come Walk With Me again this year, albeit, from a distance.
Traditionally, the event is held on the first Saturday in October to raise funds for breast health programs and services at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital. This year, however, participants are unable to gather in person due to the impacts of COVID-19. Instead, supporters are encouraged to join the event as “virtual walkers” by walking close to home and sharing their pink spirit on social media throughout all of October.
Cheron and her team, the Boob Troop (formerly known as Kathie’s Angels and the Boobie Brigade), are already making their virtual preparations. Although last year was her first year walking, the team itself has been around since 2013.
“Our team was formed by my friend and MultiCare colleague, Paula, in memory of her mother, Kathie,” Cheron says. “Kathie and I went through cancer treatment together. I survived. Tragically, Kathie did not. I walk alongside her family and mine to keep her memory alive, which has been very therapeutic for me.”
For others in the community who may be hesitant to participate in Come Walk With Me from afar, Cheron encourages them to give it a try. One hundred percent of all funds raised will continue to stay local, benefitting breast cancer patients and survivors across Pierce County.
“They would receive a warm welcome, and it’s really great to feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself,” Cheron explains. “It’s vitally important because some people have no help, no resources, no family. To give them any type of support, be it financial or emotional, is imperative. Sometimes when you’re going through a diagnosis, it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of ‘Why me?’ But then we realize, we can learn from this and we can help other people. It makes it less scary, and it gives you more hope that you can fight and make it through when you’re surrounded by that positivity. If you don’t have hope, you can’t fight anything. That’s been my message from day one.”
Make a difference from a distance this October. Sign up today to support Come Walk With Me as a virtual walker.
About The Author
McKenna Ownby writes stories that connect readers to the impact of philanthropy.More stories by this author