After graduating from Kennewick High in 1971, Betty Corbitt left for a retail career on the west side of the state, where she married and started a family. But after being back in the Tri-Cities for 20 years, she decided to receive treatment for breast cancer locally. And she has
“I found the lump through a self-exam, and thought ‘cancer’.” But Betty said the timing was terrible to start treatment. “I was doing home care for my mother, who also had cancer and I needed to keep my business going.” When asked how she coped with multiple challenges, Betty laughed and said “I went into denial!”
Betty was already familiar with cancer, having lost a husband to this disease in 1991. She’s quick to contrast the challenges of getting state-of-the-art treatment and information on therapy options back then with her experience in the Tri-Cities.
The change in her breast was subsequently confirmed to be a tumor by her family physician, Dr. Katie Karlson. At this point, there was an immediate and seamless flow of medical support.
“It was incredibly positive compared to my experience with my husband’s cancer.”
Dr. Karlson quickly scheduled Betty with a visit to Dr. John Droesch to talk about surgery, and he in turn referred her to Dr. Eric Gamboa at Columbia Basin Hematology and Oncology, now Kadlec Clinic Hematology and Oncology, for chemo to shrink the tumor before removal. Then it was back to Dr. Droesch for surgery and on to Dr. Sue Mandell of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center for radiation treatment.
All three doctors participate in the Tri-Cities Cancer Center’s Breast Oncology Program, evaluating treatment options, making her care seamless. Betty’s case was presented at their bi-monthly multidisciplinary conference to a group of over twenty medical providers who specialize in breast cancer. “Everyone, from physician to support staff treated me like family, while sharing with me the state-of-the-art thinking about the treatment for my cancer. “
Betty has a number of pieces of advice to share with others diagnosed with cancer.
First, denial is inevitable, but you have to get past it, “Denial was a natural reaction, but it’s not very productive if you want to survive.”
Second, educate yourself on your specific cancer and treatment options. “I still chuckle when I think of the look on Dr. Gamboa’s face when I’d come in with my 2” binder of literature, test results and a list of questions about treatment options and side effects. But he, and all the medical staff, were infinitely patient in addressing my concerns.”
Third, have an advocate with you for each meeting and treatment. “I was fortunate to have my cousin, Marian Jamieson, fly up from the Bay area to be with me during doctor visits and treatment. Everyone should have such an angel with them from the start.”
Fourth, find a way to relax! Betty benefitted from ‘purr therapy’, administered by her two year old cat. “Everyone’s heard of ‘cat’ scans, but ‘purr therapy’ is when your cat cuddles with you, purring softly, after a therapy session. Nothing is more relaxing.”