If you think you are too young for cancer, talk to Kami Combes.
The 36-year-old mother of two hadn’t been feeling well for a few days back in 2007 when on a March afternoon she suffered a brain seizure that was witnessed by her husband, Patrick.
While the Queen Anne resident had no recollection of the event, her husband saw her lie down on the bed and then turn completely rigid and start violently shaking.
“I was trying to look at him and the next thing I knew it was the middle of the night,” Combes said.
The next day, the couple went to the Swedish Medical Center clinic on Queen Anne. Within a day the doctors at Swedish had some terrifying news: Combes had been diagnosed with a stage II astrocytoma or a brain tumor on the left side of her head. The largest and most dangerous kind of astrocytoma is a stage IV.
“I feel pretty blessed it wasn’t the worst case,” Combes said, sitting in the dining room of her Queen Anne home.
After checking out her options, Combes decided to have an operation. Three months later, Dr. Gregory Foltz removed the tumor and placed a titanium cap on the left side of her skull. The results were good, but Combes underwent six weeks of radiation treatments and then six months of chemotherapy before she was given a clean bill of health.
Unfortunately, not everyone is as lucky as Combes. That is why Swedish Hospital is gearing up for its fourth annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 24. The two-mile walk will be at the Seattle Center Fountain and will be a
According to Swedish Hospital, the event is dedicated to providing hope and creating community for the 1,500 patients in the Pacific Northwest who face mankind’s deadliest form of cancer – brain cancer. With most patients given a survival rate of between one or two years, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk is an important tribute to the fight for time, hope and new treatment options.
The Seattle Brain Cancer Walk raises money that will be distributed to the Pacific Northwest region’s most promising brain cancer research projects, including the Ben and Catherine Ivy Brain Tumor Center at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute.
Each year more than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a primary (cancer cells specific to the brain only) or metastatic (cancer cells that have spread to the brain from another part of the body) brain tumor. Primary brain tumors comprise approximately 40,000 of these diagnoses.
Since its inception in 2008 by a group of committed volunteers and families, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk has raised more than $800,000 for research, clinical trials, advocacy and comprehensive care for brain cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest.
This year, the goal is to raise more than $400,000 in donations, but the walk is only at $132,000 in pledges and needs help to reach its goal.
Combes, a past Brain Cancer Walk chairwoman, keeps a sign in her front window that reads “Titanium Makes You Stronger.” The sign is not only a remembrance of her own bout with brain cancer but also the name of her brain cancer walk team that gathers pledges and takes part in the annual event.
“It’s a chance for people to be together and meet others who have had this same kind of illness and also to support each other,” Combes said of the walk. “It is a great experience for me to go and be with people who know what it is like.”
Combes said a number of people from across the country who have been diagnosed with brain cancer have contacted her through her Facebook page and wanted to talk with her about her experiences. She is always glad to help.
“The first assumption that people used to have was, ‘OK, when are you going to die?’, but it’s not like that anymore,” Combes said. “Now, the assumption is ‘how will we treat this?’”
Still, Combes acknowledges she felt all the same gut-wrenching fears that anyone else would feel in this situation, including wondering if she would live to see her two children grow up.
“It’s a very scary time,” she said. “But the research is progressing and attitudes are changing.”
Combes invites anyone interested to take part in the walk by donating to a team or individual, volunteering or even joining a team.
For more information, visit www.braincancerwalk.org.