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Redmond's Macartney won’t let cancer slow her down

Laurel Macartney is all smiles during a motorcycle ride to the Columbia River Gorge by Hood River. - Courtesy of Laurel Macartney
Laurel Macartney is all smiles during a motorcycle ride to the Columbia River Gorge by Hood River.
— image credit: Courtesy of Laurel Macartney

At age 67, one of Laurel Macartney’s favorite hobbies is traveling.

Whether she’s taking a two-and-a-half-week trip to Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands or a motorcycle ride across the country, the 32-year Redmond resident enjoys seeing the world. And she’s not about to let anything stop her — not even cancer.

“You can have a life while you’re in treatments,” she said.

These are words Macartney lives by as she is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland while taking breaks here and there to go on trips with her husband and family around the country or the world.

UNINTERRUPTED PLANS

Macartney was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. She had been on a four-week cross-country motorcycle trip when she said something didn’t feel right. After the diagnosis, she underwent nine months of treatment, which included chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy. She went on medication for five years, but in 2011, doctors discovered that the cancer had become metastatic, meaning it had moved to other parts of her body — her spine, pelvis and liver — and she has been on constant chemotherapy for the past three years.

Despite this, Macartney’s travel plans have not changed, though she concedes she has been very lucky in that she has been able to tolerate the treatments well and carry a normal lifestyle. This is not to say the treatments have not affected her at all.

“The treatments can make you fatigued,” she said, adding that her team of doctors at EvergreenHealth have been able to manage her disease while allowing her to have a high quality of life.

For Macartney, who is also a ski patroller for Crystal Mountain, her outlook on life since she was diagnosed was that there are a lot of things she can’t control about the disease, but she can control her attitude and how she faces it. She admits there are times when she gets down about her illness.

“I try not to stay there very long,” said Macartney, whose son Scott competed with the U.S. Ski Team at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics.

SLEEPLESS CAUSE

Since she was first diagnosed, Macartney has become a volunteer and cancer advocate for various organizations including Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

For the former, Macartney said she volunteers as a match counselor, meaning she is available to talk with newly diagnosed patients, who are in similar situations as she has been, to answer questions, offer advice or just listen.

Macartney has also lobbied for the ACS Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), providing testimony for different initiatives that affect those diagnosed with cancer.

In addition to this, Macartney will be participating in this year’s Redmond/Kirkland Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the ACS that is held throughout the country.

The Redmond/Kirkland event begins 10 a.m. Saturday at the Redmond High School football field at 17272 N.E. 104th St. The event kicks off with a survivor breakfast, during which attendees can enjoy manicures and massages, receive gifts and more, in addition to their morning meal. The opening ceremony begins at noon and will feature various certificates, awards and prizes for people. During the ceremony, Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen will read a joint proclamation. Cancer survivors will also be honored during the ceremony and they will begin the day’s relay with the first lap.

“We walk until closing ceremony at 8 a.m. Sunday morning,” said event chair Beth Dotson, who first became involved in the event 10 years ago after losing her mother to ovarian cancer.

She said the theme and idea behind a 24-hour relay is “cancer never sleeps, so why should we?”

A SOLEMN AND UPLIFTING EVENT

Dotson said the money raised goes toward cancer research and patient services such as providing transportation to treatment, money for wigs and outreach for newly diagnosed patients.

“It’s not just for one specific cancer,” she said. “It’s for all cancers.”

Macartney said one of the reasons she likes ACS is because it provides support for all cancer types and the various needs cancer patients have once diagnosed.

“They really are very supportive,” she said about the organization, adding that she has utilized a few of ACS’s programs.

There are various ways to raise money for Relay for Life, Dotson said. This includes individual teams holding their own fundraisers as well as the whole Redmond/Kirkland community holding fundraisers.

“(The teams) get a little competitive but we know the money is going to the same place,” Dotson said.

Some of the highlights for this weekend’s event include the Luminaria Ceremony, which will be at 10 p.m. Saturday. Dotson said this will feature decorated, candlelit bags lining the track, followed by two laps of silence.

“It’s one of my favorite parts of relay,” she said, adding that walking in silence is a good way to remember the loved ones they are honoring.

The Luminaria is Macartney’s favorite part of Relay for Life, as well.

“It’s a very moving time,” she said.

Macartney, who will be participating in her second Relay for Life this year, added that while it may seem that there has been progress in curing cancer, there is still a long way to go and the Luminaria — honoring those who have lost the battle — reminds us of that.

And while the Luminaria is a solemn event, Relay for Life will also feature more uplifting activities such as a silent auction, teams selling various items to raise more money, a concession stand and a barbecue. Dotson said there will also be a 20-foot long, inflatable colon people can go through, which was donated by EvergreenHealth to raise awareness for colon screening. Movies will also be shown on a big screen to keep relay walkers entertained throughout the night.

This year’s theme is “Ragin’ Cajun” and the band Fidgety Feet will also be performing.

“It’s a very festive event,” Macartney said.

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