The statistics are sobering: One in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes. And battling cancer is hard, no matter who, or where, you are.
Amy Rowley knows—she lived it.
Amy was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma (breast cancer) in April 2017 at the age of 42. She had chemotherapy and radiation at Providence Regional Cancer System in Lacey. Amy says she considered going to Seattle for her treatment, and even had a consultation scheduled, but once she met her oncologist, Xingwei D. Sui, M.D. she felt confident that she’d get the care she needed here.
“I was very reassured that Dr. Sui and the Providence oncology team were up to date on all the latest developments with breast cancer and also had all the tools available to them to eradicate my tumor,” Amy says. “There was no reason to add the additional stress, time and expense associated with traveling north.”
Having the full spectrum of superior-quality care available locally helped to ease some of the logistical challenges that go along with intensive, ongoing treatment. “I actually believe the quality was better, because I was close to home, which reduced the stress on my family. Dr. Sui also consults with colleagues at UW, and the tumor board in Olympia is made up of people who are our neighbors.”
Amy says her treatment appointments were scheduled around her work schedule and her kids’ busy lives. “Most of my appointments, including all my radiation care, occurred while my kids were at school,” she says. “I am grateful for the convenient scheduling that prioritized my family; I feel this dramatically reduced the psychological impact to my kids and enabled our whole family to heal faster.”
Amy says she frequently tells people how grateful she is for the Providence team. “Each person in the Lacey clinic cares about me and my health. Despite the miserable circumstances, I felt a circle around me that lifted me up, even on the darkest days.”
Beyond treatment: Paying it forward
As Amy neared the end of her own active treatment, she began thinking of ways she could help others. Thurston County families—even those with health insurance—face unexpected, potentially devastating expenses associated with a cancer diagnosis. “Even with health insurance, the financial costs of being a cancer patient are astounding,” Amy says.
In January 2018, Amy started The Mayday Foundation, a non-profit organization to support families with a parent diagnosed with cancer while caring for children at home. The foundation provides immediate, practical financial assistance to Thurston and Grays Harbor families, with the goal of helping avoid bankruptcy, maintain stable housing and a sense of normalcy for the children, ease some stress, and keep families intact.
The Mayday Foundation works closely with social workers at Providence Regional Cancer System to identify local families in need, and then offers assistance with non-medical bills such as rent, utilities, groceries, transportation and other household expenses. Payments are made directly to third parties on behalf of the family in need.
Thanks to a giving community
Amy’s original first-year goal was to raise $15,000—enough to help three families. To date in 2018, she raised more than $60,000 and helped 10 families, including 20 children. Amy says she is humbled by the outpouring of support and encouragement she’s received from Providence and the community.
“We have such a giving community,” Amy says. “People truly want to give and to help, and I just provided a pathway to make it happen. I’m so proud that we are keeping these families from bankruptcy and offering a hand when they need it the most.”
To learn more about The Mayday Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.MaydayFoundation.org.
Screening mammograms save lives
Screening mammogram—a low-dose X-ray used to find changes in breast tissue—is an important tool for early detection of breast cancer and other breast abnormalities.
Amy Rowley credits a screening mammogram for detecting her cancer. “I was diagnosed through a routine mammogram. By the time the lump was large enough to feel, it would have progressed to a point that my prognosis would have been extremely poor. I have no family history and I’m younger than 50, so the diagnosis was definitely a surprise.”
According to current breast cancer screening guidelines, all women ages 50 to 74 should be screened. Women younger than 50 and older than 74 may also benefit from screening, particulary if they are high risk. (Amy started getting mammograms earlier than screening guidelines recommend, after a friend of hers was diagnosed with breast cancer.)
Talk to your doctor about your risk of breast cancer. Together you can decide if and when mammograms are right for you.
To schedule a screening mammogram, call the Providence Breast Cancer Services location near you.
Providence Regional Cancer System provides comprehensive oncology services at five clinic locations throughout western Washington: Aberdeen, Centralia, Lacey, Shelton and Yelm. Our expert cancer team offers traditional treatments, like infusion, chemotherapy, an oncology lab and high-tech imaging, as well as genetic counseling, patient navigators, lymphedema therapy, therapeutic massage and counseling services, as well as compassionate support, every step of the way.
Get to know Dr. Xingwei Sui, an expert in medical oncology and hematology at Providence Medical Group's Regional Cancer System:
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.