Teri McClain, a Seattle CSA, was already going through a hard time when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2016. She had recently lost her dad and shortly after having shoulder surgery, she discovered a lump while in the shower, like most people she was caught completely off guard. She had healthy habits such as drinking green tea, eating kale salads and steel cut oats. She doesn’t smoke or drink.
Over the ensuing months she had chemotherapy, followed by lumpectomy surgery and then radiation at Swedish Cancer Institute.
Through it all, she’s been off work and living on long-term disability. She's hoping to come back to work in a less physically demanding role.
McClain maintains a positive outlook and has thrown herself headlong into getting better and taking advantage of her time off work to develop other interests. Swedish offers many wellness programs such as yoga, art and music therapy. McClain participates in all of them, as well as being obsessive about nutrition and her physical recovery.
“The breast cancer part stinks, but it’s given me a chance to do more of what makes me happy. I have so much gratitude for all the little things now,” she said.
She’s also been very “out” with letting people know she has cancer – she shaved her head before starting chemo, wears a pink cap to keep her head warm and was featured in an article on Swedish’s web site about her journey. She has found comfort in telling people what she’s coping with and how she’s feeling.
“When you open up about breast cancer and put it out there, you become part of an amazing community. You help one another and get inspired,” she says.
McClain tentatively contacted the EAF, not sure if they would be able to help. She was quickly approved and a volunteer walked her through all the ways they could help – they paid her rent, utilities, phone and health insurance when it ran out.
"Now I get it. It goes to people who really need it, whether it's breast cancer or any other tough life event. It takes the worry off so you can focus on your wellness," she said.