Christine Smith’s bout with breast cancer led her to helping others facing the same challenge. Christine was just 32 when she was diagnosed in May 2000. An active, stay-at-home mother with two young sons, Christine credits the support of her husband, friends and extended family with helping her get through her surgery and chemotherapy. Just two short months after her diagnosis, Christine was reaching out to help others by founding Northwest Hope & Healing (NWHH), an organization that provides non-medical support to breast-cancer patients at Swedish. That first year, with the help of family and friends, Christine distributed dozens of “healing baskets” to patients that were filled with comfort items such as lavender eye pillows, lip balm, inspirational notecards, creams and cosmetics.
In addition to the healing baskets, NWHH now raises money to provide financial support for patient necessities not covered by insurance. Rent, money for food, and even childcare reimbursement are offered to those unable to cover these costs during treatment. Christine herself often meets with newly diagnosed patients. “Initially, I thought I was going to die,” says Christine, whose cancer was characterized as aggressive. “I know what it’s like to be afraid.”
Christine says her fear “went away all at once” and she focused on living rather than dying. “I feel so fortunate to have been treated by the fabulous doctors at Swedish,” says Christine. “I never asked ‘why’ when I was diagnosed. I just look at my experience as a reason to help others.” Christine, who through genetic testing has
learned she has a gene that means she has a heightened risk for ovarian cancer, says that she doesn’t call herself a “cancer survivor.” “That separates me from other people and I’m not any different from anyone else,” says Christine. She and her husband, Tim, recently adopted a little girl from China.
Christine says she lives her life enjoying all she has in the present moment and looking forward to the future. “We’re all survivors of something,” says Christine. “Cancer doesn’t define me. What I do with the rest of my life does.”
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