By Carl Berkowitz, TCCC Volunteer
Though the coronavirus pandemic has upended health care in the region, Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation board member Misty Ovens wants the community to know that the nonprofit stands ready to adapt to our rapidly changing world.
“We’re having to change the nature of our activities, moving from in-person fundraising events to virtual events and doing more home outreach activities for our patients,” she said, adding that she’s confident that the Foundation will continue to serve the community in the days to come by providing important care and education for cancer patients, survivors and their families.
The Big ‘C’
Misty is no stranger to living through trying and scary times. The Richland woman was 34 when she discovered she had breast cancer. She had been given a clean bill of health during a general physical exam a year after getting married. But while doing a self-examination after her appointment, she felt a small lump in her breast. Her husband, Bryan, convinced her to return to her doctor, who confirmed Misty’s suspicion and sent her for an ultrasound, which identified a second lump. This was followed by biopsies, and within a week, a meeting with Tri-City breast surgical oncologist Dr. John Droesch to discuss treatment options.
“Dr. Droesch, and later Dr. Tom Rado (founder of Columbia Basin Hematology and Oncology, now Kadlec Hematology and Oncology), were infinitely patient in answering our questions. They were also supportive of my desire to get an outside opinion from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance,” Misty said. The Seattle doctors agreed with the treatment plan outlined by Drs. Droesch and Rado. The Seattle exams reassured Misty and made her more appreciative of the importance of having world-class medical care in our community.
The experience convinced Misty that an early cancer diagnosis was not necessarily a death sentence. Raised by her grandparents for whom “the big C” meant the end of the line, Misty can now laugh when talking about how this attitude from an earlier generation allowed her to take her paranoia and fear to “all new levels.” She credits her husband and her Tri-City medical team in helping her keep it all in perspective. “They all spoke to me in a way I could understand and made me and everyone feel much better about the diagnosis. Their patience and understanding was essential in helping me get through my treatments,” she said.
Finding a Sisterhood
Misty’s active support of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center began when she and three friends met informally to talk about their experiences with cancer. They had much in common – they were a similar age and were trying to manage their families and careers, while also trying to navigate through their cancer diagnosis. They found these informal meetings to be good therapy and eventually worked with the Cancer Center to create a more formal group, which they did in 2013. The first meeting included about 10 women, all of whom had been recently diagnosed with cancer. It wasn’t long after that Warrior Sisterhood became a sanctioned support group through the Cancer Center.
Since then, Warrior Sisterhood has grown to more than 150 cancer patients and survivors with a goal of empowering local women with cancer or a cancer-related diagnosis, and survivors. The group offers emotional support with monthly group meetings, fun gatherings and activities, and a private Facebook group. It also provides nominal financial grants to newly diagnosed women under 45 and distributes chemotherapy bags packed with useful items to help make infusions more comfortable.
“Our goal from the beginning was to provide general fellowship among women who have gone through cancer and are fighting to get their lives back,” Misty said.
Keeping the Foundation’s Focus
Seeing that the Warrior Sisterhood was on strong footing with an outstanding leadership team, Misty stepped down from the board in 2019 to focus her energy as a board member for the Cancer Center Foundation. She said her cancer journey helped her to better prioritize her activities. With only 24 hours in a day, a full-time supervisory job with Washington’s Child Protective Services and her own children and family, she constantly has to decide where and how to best invest her time.
Like other Foundation board members, she supports many of the nonprofit’s activities, many of which are live, in-person events. The Foundation team and board members like Misty have been working on alternative plans to serve the community in the wake of the pandemic.
“Ending our events was not an option,” Misty said. “These activities are necessary so we can continue to provide logistical, emotional and financial support to cancer patients and their families. Our fundraising efforts allow us to provide the many no-cost screenings and cancer-education classes we offer on a monthly basis.”
The Foundation’s mission and Misty’s passion to help others continue to help lead the way. To learn how to help the Foundation, contact Misty at (509) 737-3413 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Warrior Sisterhood and Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation: