SPOKANE, Wash. - Valerie Stichweh was in the prime of her life, in a career she was passionate about, with a beautiful daughter and loving husband when she got the terrible news: she had breast cancer.
“I remember sitting in the office thinking, 'oh you are being a hypochondriac, You're fine, There's nothing wrong. You are 39 years old!' And then I got done with that appointment and the doctor hugged me 3 times,” Stitchweh said.
When she left that appointment she knew in her heart something was wrong. A mammogram shortly after proved it; stage 3 ductal sarcoma. Breast cancer. She tested positive for HER2 which meant it was aggressive and fast-moving. It was found in her lymph nodes.
"I just lit up the screen with cancer," said Stichweh.
The plan for treatment was long and grueling. A year and a half of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and 33 rounds of radiation.
Her thoughts during the time were with her young daughter, “I just remember trying to sleep at night and i couldn't because the thoughts were running around in my head you know, if i would still be here. I have a nine-year-old. I need to be here to raise her.”
Now, three years cancer free, she credits her faith, family and team of doctors for getting her to this place.
"I had the most amazing nurses, I had just angel nurses," Stitchweh said.
But it was her radiation oncologist at MultiCare Rockwood, Dr. Lisa Maestas, with whom she formed a special bond. When she first got diagnosed, each member of her treatment team with MultiCare met with her at the Breast Health Center to go over her treatment plan.
"We hit it off right away," said Stichweh. "I just felt really comfortable with her and knew i was in really good hands.”
“She was just so strong throughout her whole treatment and was just a gift to our whole department,” Dr. Maestas added.
Dr. Maestas has become a fixture at Stichweh's concerts, cheering her on as performs the song inspired by her journey, Rainbow After the Storm, written by her two friends, Michelle McCammond and Mellad Abeid. Listen to the full song here.
“What I love about this song is that it is a song of hope. And we all need that going through something like this,” explained Stichweh.
Stichweh says she doesn't believe she would be here, if it wasn't for the mammogram. Adding that it is important to listen to your body, no matter your age.
MultiCare Health System is hosting “Mammo Parties” all month long at the MultiCare Rockwood Breast Health Center and MultiCare Rockwood Main Clinic.
The dates are:
October 19th and 26th at the Rockwood Breast Health Center located at 12410 East Sinto Avenue, Suite 105, Spokane Valley from 5pm-8pm.
October 30th at the MultiCare Rockwood Main Clinic located at 400 East 5th Avenue, Spokane from 5pm-8pm.
To get scheduled, follow this link.
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