Innovators Network Support in Action: Rebecca Seago-Coyle

Innovators Network Support in Action: Rebecca Seago-Coyle

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Rebecca at end of Portland race
Rebecca and Alan with puppies
Rebecca at Half-Marathon fall 2010
Dr. Julie Gralow and nurse Kay Tilton
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On the beach
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'I started running and didn't stop'

I am a project manager. It’s my nature to plan ahead. In 2009 I worked for a company that builds digital maps for clients all over the world. But I was bored and feeling stuck. So I took up running and that fall entered the Portland Marathon, where it doesn’t matter if you break for walks. Turns out, I started running and I didn’t stop till the finish line. Running made me happy, and I made a plan: to run or bike in one event, wherever travels took me, every month of 2010. But I never planned on cancer.

Photo: Rebecca at the finish line, after running her first Portland Marathon in 2009

Courtesy of Rebecca Seago-Coyle

After the diagnosis

The call came during a business meeting on June 4, 2010. I wasn’t worried about the lump or the biopsy. The ultrasound tech had told me, “This is SO not cancer.” But I asked for the mammogram anyway. Then came the biopsy and then the news.

Earlier that spring, my husband, Alan, and I lost both our beloved old dogs, mine in April, his in May. After my diagnosis, we went to the pound. He named his pup Kemo and said, “Maybe this Kemo will cure your cancer.” I named the little black-and-white guy Oz.

Photo: Alan and Rebecca with their pups in June 2010

Courtesy of Rebecca Seago-Coyle

Mastectomy, chemotherapy and a plan

Early on I realized I had cancer and I had a choice. I could sit down and let everyone tell me what I had to do. Or I could tell them what we were going to do. I was stage 1, but tests showed I carried the breast cancer gene mutation in BRCA2. In July I had a bilateral mastectomy and started chemotherapy. But I kept to my plan: In my mind, running helped push the chemo through my blood system and do what it needed to do. 

Photo: Rebecca running the Women's Half Marathon in Phoenix, Autumn 2010

Courtesy of Rebecca Seago-Coyle

Keeping to the plan

I believe Dr. Julie Gralow and the team at Fred Hutch’s treatment arm, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, saved my life. Julie is a runner like me. It turned out that when I had run a half marathon in Florida that February, she had run it, too. Small world.

I kept to my plan and finished 13 events that year, skipping only August. In October, six weeks into chemotherapy, I ran the Portland Marathon once again. My time was only seven minutes slower. Julie and my nurse, Kay Tilton, ran the half marathon, and before their race they brought me flowers.

Photo: Dr. Julie Gralow (right) and nurse Kay Tilton before Rebecca’s second Portland Marathon in October 2010

Courtesy of Rebecca Seago-Coyle

Like-minded people at Innovators Network

After you become a survivor, you begin to think what kind of ways you can give back. At Fred Hutch’s Innovators Network, I found like-minded people, professionals who want to give something back to the community. Here I can put my project management skills to work, organizing and planning. You get to hear speakers who talk about the latest and greatest and where your dollars go. But it’s not all cancer all the time. The happy hours are fun. You get to socialize.

Photo: Having fun with Fred Hutch’s Heidi Rogers at an Innovators Network event in July 2014

Courtesy of Rebecca Seago-Coyle

'We all need to talk about cancer'

I used to be an introvert. I used to be afraid to speak in public. Not anymore. We all need to talk about cancer. I look to organizations that made me a survivor. It was Fred Hutch and the research. It was Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the medical team. It was Susan G. Komen and the research grants. When these organizations ask me to do something, I do my best to do it. They are the ones who put me here. I’m still managing projects and still planning ahead. And Alan, Kemo, Oz and I are doing just fine.

Photo: Rebecca on the beach with Alan, Kemo and Oz, Labor Day 2013

Courtesy of Rebecca Seago-Coyle