North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Breast cancer hits home for Arlington police, fire

 

Courtesy Photo

Arlington Police Officers, from left, Mike Phillips, Sergeant Rory Bolter, Deputy Chief Dan Cone, Detective Michael Sargent, Officer Pen Cook, and Officer Ken Thomas with their pink badges.

October, which is celebrated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, typically sees police officers don pink badges and firefighters wear pink shirts to show their support for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

But for Arlington's Deputy Police Chief Dan Cone and Deputy Fire Chief Tom Cooper, the campaign has taken on a more personal significance.

Tamara Michalak is Cone's older sister. She's 41 years old to his 38, but more than two years ago there was a serious question about whether she would see another birthday.

"She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer," Cone said. "It was definitely scary, but she'd made up her mind that she was going to get through it."

Tamara endured six months of chemo, the worst of which coincided with the winter holiday season.

"As someone watching a loved one go through this, you feel pretty powerless," Cone said "There's not a whole lot you can do, other than offering moral support as they fight it off."

Cone and his family nonetheless offered Tamara what comforts they could, through small gestures such as bringing her food during treatment, on up to making a greater commitment to bring as much of the family together as possible for that year's Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"Our family is spread out over some considerable distances," said Cone, who noted that he lives in Arlington while his sister lives in Granite Falls. "But we made a point of coming together."

Even after Tamara's chemo, she went through months and years of reconstructive surgery, but Cone recognizes that she and the rest of his family could be considered relatively lucky.

"A lot of families lose their loved ones, especially if they're diagnosed as late as Stage 4," Cone said. "What I would hope is that those who might not be as affected personally by cancer still take the time to support the efforts of the doctors and other scientists who are figuring out better ways of battling cancer, so that more families can share our good fortune."

Courtesy Photo

Marysville firefighters, from left, Brandon Hancock, Chris Skagen and Dean Shelton wearing shirts in support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month that was celebrated in October.

Deputy Fire Chief Tom Cooper's family was not so fortunate. His wife's sister sustained an extended bout of her own against breast cancer. While she appeared to have made it out of the woods at one point, the cancer came back and ultimately claimed her life in 2008.

"Obviously, my wife and I were deeply hurt to lose such a close family member, but it continues to be a pressing concern," Cooper said. "My sister-in-law's death indicates that all the women in our family are at a much higher risk of developing breast cancer themselves."

To that end, Cooper urged women to do self-examinations and go in for mammograms regularly, to catch any potential growth before they have a chance to spread.

"And whatever your diagnosis, be sure to get a second opinion," Cooper said. "Your health is too important to do anything without making sure it's the right course of action. This disease affects us all."

 

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