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Dawn - Lung Cancer

Dawn - Lung Cancer

Towards the end of 2017, Dawn – an HR expert who loves Zumba - felt like she was fighting a respiratory illness and went to see her nurse practitioner, Catherine Ramsey, at UW Medicine. Ramsey believed it to be a mild case of pneumonia but ordered a CT scan to confirm. The CT scan showed a small tumor on Dawn’s lung. Dawn was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma.

“I am forever grateful to her,” says Dawn. “If she hadn't been so thorough, I would not have known until my situation was more advanced.” Dawn had the tumor surgically removed and started a surveillance program to make sure nothing further would develop. A couple years later, her lung surgeon, Dr. Farhood Farjah, found two lymph nodes that looked irregular. He recommended a biopsy. They turned out to be cancerous, and he immediately put Dawn in touch with the SCCA Proton Therapy Center and Dr. Jing Zeng, one of the Center’s lung cancer experts. Dr. Zeng started Dawn on protons soon after.

“While getting a cancer diagnosis - or even two in my case - is scary,” says Dawn, “I felt that my medical care team at UW, SCCA, and the Proton Therapy Center were there to fight for me. I feel very lucky to have these amazing resources and medical professionals there for me.”

Dawn found that treatments at the Center were eased by the beautiful facility, professional and caring staff, the music her radiation therapists would play during treatments, even the fuzzy robe and socks. At the end of her treatment course, she received a certificate and uniquely-numbered challenge coin as a graduate, which she thought was a lovely surprise.

“Since I was first diagnosed, I felt that there were two paths in front of me,” reflects Dawn. “The ‘fact path’ and the ‘Lifetime movie path.’ I liked being on the ‘fact path’ because I could trust that the information I received was based on science and medical expertise. There were times I found myself on the ‘Lifetime movie path,’ and I had all sorts of highly emotional thoughts that weren't based on my situation. I would try to quickly get back on the ‘fact path.’ I also found that making fun of cancer was my way of counteracting the seriousness of it. Laughing in general was really important.”

Her doctor, Dr. Zeng, agrees: “Dawn has a positive energy that affects everyone around her. Treatment for lung cancer can be very tough at times, but she never lost her smile or her outlook on life. Her strength and courage never cease to inspire me.”

Dawn shows off her positive attitude.

Dawn got this bracelet to keep herself inspired.

Dawn advises others who are facing cancer to figure out what works best for them to keep hopeful and upbeat. She surrounded herself with things that made her happy, such as favorite TV shows, family, friends, and food! Dawn says she is happy to speak to patients considering proton therapy to give them her perspective on treatment. Please contact our Patient Services Manager, April, if you would like to speak with Dawn. April.clements@seattleprotons.org.