For many, Thanksgiving is all about the “three F’s”: food, family and football.
For others, especially those living with and/or working to eradicate cancer and other diseases, it can be a time to give thanks for compassionate caregivers, breakthrough discoveries, lifesaving treatments and in some cases, a cure.
As a breast cancer survivor, I’m incredibly thankful to be nearly four years out from my diagnosis, surgery and treatment. Three Thanksgivings ago, I had the tiniest bit of peach fuzz on my head and a swath of radiation burns down the front of my chest. Wine was just starting to lose its motor oil taste but meat and gravy still made me queasy.
This year, my skin has healed, my hair is down to my shoulders and I’ve finally made it through the gauntlet of breast reconstruction. I’m happy, healthy, loved and feel lucky to be alive and have my appetite back (especially during pie season!). I’m also thrilled to be working at a world-class cancer center, where in the past year researchers have melted away tumors with beefed up T cells, designed swanky, high-tech ways to help smokers kick the habit and, most recently, launched a new study to figure out the most effective method for screening dense breasts.
But I’m not the only one who’s grateful to be here. Read on to hear what our researchers, administrators and patients are especially thankful for this year.
I’m grateful for the thousands of people who have participated in my studies over the years, people who were willing to be measured, probed, intervened upon, and grilled with questions about their health, habits, and inner thoughts and feelings – all for the benefit of improving medicine, health, and science. These are true pioneers, and they bring to mind the adventurous spirit of the first Thanksgiving celebrants, those early settlers who also ventured into unknown territory at personal risk, all for the chance of freedom for themselves, their families, and the people who would come after them. I’m also thankful for the hundreds of staff members I’ve worked with who have delivered on protocols and procedures and ensured optimal quality in our clinical trials and epidemiologic studies. They are the primary reason we have had such success in recruiting and retaining participants in our studies.
Dr. Anne McTiernan, breast and colorectal cancer prevention researcher
I’m thankful to work at one of the world’s top medical research centers, but more importantly I’m grateful for the privilege that the Hutch has given me to see hundreds of patients move on with their lives after receiving treatment here.
Dr. Mary Flowers, clinical researcher at Fred Hutch and
director of the Post-Transplant Long-Term Follow-Up
Clinical Service at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
I’m thankful for the advances in technology in radiation that allow for more targeted application and faster recovery. But that takes people who think and can create. Those researchers and patients who pioneered the way for me deserve thanks.
Eric Zytowski, prostate cancer survivor
I am thankful to be engaged in work that keeps me awake and moving. Every day is a new and different day at Hutch School. I am energized by our team and how we work so deliberately, with both our hearts and our minds, to pay attention to both the daily and longer-term needs of our students. I also feel incredibly fortunate to be connected to families who are experiencing such a unique and challenging time in life. Their courage and their trust in us is a gift.
Margaret Flatness, teacher and administrator, Hutch School
Every day, I am thankful that my family and I are healthy and happy, especially when I see how cancer can change everything in an instant. I am also thankful that I have the privilege of being part of a team whose mission is to cure cancer – one patient at a time, and one therapeutic advance after another. I can’t imagine more meaningful or fulfilling work.
Dr. Stephanie Lee, clinical researcher at Fred Hutch and
hematologist at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
As a cancer survivor (now going on 23 years), cancer is no longer the enemy it was so many years ago. Rather, it has become something that I quietly acknowledge in reminding myself of what is most important in this life – my relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and how I need to approach each day with joy, optimism and hope. In short, I am in a state of thankfulness.
Leslie Sandberg, cancer survivor and Clinical Research Division administrator
One time of year isn’t enough to be thankful for the work I do with the Uganda program (Fred Hutch’s Program in Global Oncology). Daily I am reminded through interactions with staff in Seattle and Kampala how lucky I am to work with so many that put the program and others’ needs ahead of their own. International work is never easy and it seems that there are very few yes-or-no answers. My interactions over the last five years with Ugandan trainees in Seattle has shown me that there is hope for eradicating infection-related cancers around the globe and it is a marvel that I am part of it.
Jason Barrett, Uganda training manager, Global Oncology Program
I am thankful to work in HIV research. I started out almost 15 years ago as the front desk receptionist for the UW AIDS Clinical Trials Unit at Harborview. It was a lucky find and I now realize that the front desk was a privileged place to be, for I got to witness the lives of people living with HIV and I got to see for myself the Lazarus Effect: people veering towards death by AIDS-related complications return to life. Seeing with my own eyes this miracle of science and medicine and (as I would learn years later) unprecedented community advocacy transformed me. To this day, no matter how overwhelmed I might feel by the thousand little things that make up anyone’s job, I know I’m blessed to work in HIV research.
Michael Louella, community outreach coordinator and liaison for Fred Hutch-based
defeatHIV program, UW AIDS Clinical Trials Unit and UW Center for AIDS Research
As a breast cancer survivor, I’m thankful to have made it through another year cancer-free (my 10th!) and for finally getting a diagnosis for my husband’s health problems and having it *not* be cancer. I’m also thankful for my daughter getting her first nursing job, for getting to take care of our “grand dog,” Hans, for Gilmore Girls on Netflix and Orphan Black on TV, for Trader Joe's Jail House Gin and for the fact that I’m living in my childhood home with the quirky history of Seattle all around me. Finally, I am thankful for being loved.
Ann Wendell, breast cancer survivor and historian/writer
I’m thankful we’ve got a new [Fred Hutch] president!
Dr. Jonathan Cooper, director of the Basic Sciences Division
I’m deeply thankful to facilitate operations in an organization that works so hard to reduce the terrible burden of disease. Here at the Hutch we help individuals, families, communities and the world. Who wouldn’t be thankful to contribute to an organization with impact so deep and so broad?
Curt Malloy, administrator, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division
This year, I am grateful to have a career that allows me to learn new things every day, to work with interesting, engaged and dedicated people both at the Fred Hutch and across the world, and to contribute to human knowledge. I am also grateful for my amazing parents who continue to support me in countless ways, for my husband who makes my life better every day, my friends who are always there to run in the dark, cold and rain at 6 a.m., and my puppy who reminds me of what is important in life. Finally, I am grateful for good health, which allows me to live my life to its fullest.
Dr. Katie Peichel, geneticist and director of the
Molecular and Cellular Biology graduate program, Fred Hutch and UW
I am grateful for my wonderful life that was given back to me 30 years ago by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and my bone marrow transplant for CML. I am grateful for my family, friends, and community for all of the support for my fundraiser, "The Flight of a Thousand Paper Cranes," as well as the Fred Hutch and SCCA staff who stood by me as I celebrated my 30th year a few weeks ago in Seattle. These experiences have forever changed me and have given me the true meaning of life. What a blessing.
Linda Binder, leukemia survivor
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it gives me time to reflect on how lucky I am. Personally, I am thankful for all that has been given to me and that I am in a position to try to give back to my friends, family, and community. Professionally, as a new young investigator at Fred Hutch, I am thankful for the amazing support, training, and research opportunities that come with being part of one of the leading cancer research institutes in the world, and that I have been given the chance to contribute to a larger effort to ease the burden of prostate cancer of men in our community and across the world.
Irene Shui, staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division’s
Diane Mapes is a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She has written extensively about health issues for NBC News, TODAY, CNN, MSN, Seattle Magazine and other publications. A breast cancer survivor, she also writes the breast cancer blog doublewhammied.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.