Nonprofit’s director using her cancer diagnosis to encourage others
Sound Experience Executive Director Catherine Collins helps to raise the sails on a recent voyage of the schooner Adventuress. -- Photo by Elizabeth Becker
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“There really has to be some good that comes out of having [expletive] cancer,” said Catherine Collins, executive director of Sound Experience, which owns and operates the historic schooner.
“I’m not the type of person who stays quiet and think if I am really open about this, it could be helpful for someone else,” Collins said.
Collins received a diagnosis of breast cancer Sept. 25. She already had planned to attend Girls’ Night Out, a cancer fundraiser, set from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in Port Townsend.
Proceeds from a raffle and gift bags for Girls’ Night Out, in which businesses will offer special events, in-store promotions and refreshments for shoppers, will go to the Jefferson County Public Health’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and the Port Townsend Main Street Program.
Collins is maintaining a positive attitude. She characterizes the likely left-breast mastectomy she will undergo in the next few months as “a port-side reconstruction.”
She had been told that something was amiss after her annual mammogram but chose to postpone a biopsy until the completion of the Adventuress’ annual fundraiser Sept. 20.
“I didn’t have the ability to process the information until the fundraiser was over, and this was not a fast-growing situation,” she said.
“A lot of women put off having a mammogram, and that can be a decision that is life-changing, but if you can detect it early, it’s more like going over a speed bump than hitting a wall.”
It is her second bout with the disease. The first diagnosis was in 2006, a few months after she had started the job at Sound Experience.
After radiation and chemotherapy treatments, she went into remission and was cancer-free until the most recent tests.
“I’ve done this twice, where I sat across the desk from the doctor and he said, ‘You have cancer,’” Collins said.
“And it’s really hard to hear the ‘C’ word in those circumstances.”
The type of cancer Collins has, called ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, has a high instance of successful treatment, Collins said.
Collins said every woman approaches cancer differently: Some are private about their situation, while others want to talk to help them to process the information and provide assistance to others.
“Since everyone is different, the best thing you can do for a cancer patient is to be present for them, asking them what you want and how you can help them,” Collins said.
“It may be that you just do something small, like take their dog for a walk.”
She said she is lucky to have a strong circle of friends and family, as well as insurance supplied by her employer.
“I don’t want to get political, but if you had to approach this without insurance, it would bankrupt you,” she said.
“The timing of the health care discussion is really important for women, who need to understand the importance of early testing.”
Collins just turned 50 and characterized this milestone as entering “my decade of power, when I will apply everything I have ever learned to do the work that I love.”
“I am lucky to be surrounded by the most incredible people,” she said.
“My colleagues are also my dearest friends, I have a wonderful, supportive husband and a lot of friends who have been through the same thing.”
For more information about Girls’ Night Out, visit www.ptmainstreet.org or phone 360-385-7911.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: October 01. 2013 7:02PM