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Local breast cancer survivor shares her story to help others

 

October 25, 2017 | View PDF

Christopher Andersson

Local breast cancer survivor Sirkku Bingham at her Stanwood knitting store PinchKnitter Yarns.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and local survivors like Sirkku Bingham hope that people make themselves more aware of the disease.

Bingham was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016.

She was a generally healthy person before the diagnosis, so it was a bit of a shock to Bingham. "I was surprised because I've never been sick and I didn't feel sick," she said.

Her family had a similar reaction.

"They were shocked, like everyone else," Bingham said. "They would ask, 'what do you mean? You're never sick?'"

There was also no history of cancer in her family, so Bingham didn't have much warning it was coming for her.

"All of us have cancer cells," she said. "What triggers it to grow all of a sudden, we don't know, but I was one of those people that it happened to."

In the following months she would go to chemotherapy every three weeks and eventually had surgery and radiation treatment as well.

Bingham said the hardest parts for her were being tired and the stomach nausea that came from the treatment, although that was eventually fixed.

"There is medication there, you just have to find what works for you," she said. "Once we found the medication that helped with being sick to your stomach, it was fine."

The help you get from family is important for getting through, she said.

"I think family and your support around you is really just vital," she said, "because it does affect the whole family and the friends around you."

Other than treatment Bingham said she was mostly at her Stanwood knitting shop, PinchKnitter Yarns, where she also received lots of support.

"I didn't realize how many awesome friends you make in a knit shop," she said, "and I think that's huge in getting better."

"When I lost my hair people would come in and be shocked. And I never did wear a wig or a hat because there are bald men, so why not me?" she said.

In addition to finding those people who are going to help you through, Bingham said its important to keep looking forward.

"I think you really just need to feel positive. It would be so easy to stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself," she said. "You live your life the way you've done before and go from there."

She does recognize there are other women with worse breast cancer diagnoses though.

"There are certainly women who were not as fortunate as I was," she said. "Living where we do and to have the Seattle Cancer Care, Fred Hutchinson, UW [University of Washington]. If we lived somewhere in the midwest it could be a lot harder to go and get the care,."

Bingham was also fortunate because of work done in recent decades.

"Eighteen years ago there wouldn't have been anything that they [the doctors] could do to help me," she said.

"I'm really lucky for the women who have been willing to take the experimental medication before me, and now I was reaping the benefit of that," she said.

Now Bingham is in remission and said she is feeling better.

"I'm feeling great and feeling less tired all the time," she said. "It takes a good year for your body to process all that chemo and radiation and get stronger."

Bingham said it's important for her to help get the word out for better research and medicine and she has been encouraging her customers to buy pink yarn at her shop to knit something for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

 

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