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To the top of Mount Si to help women in need
Tami Kapule wants to celebrate conquering breast cancer with a climb to the top of Mount Si.
Tami Kapule, a Black Diamond resident who works for the Kent Fire Department, was diagnosed in December. Her first-ever mammogram in May 2012 showed something suspicious but not scary, so, the staff at MultiCare in Covington suggested she return in six months to check again.
“Ann, she was the mammogram technician, she said, ‘Don’t get dressed, just hang tight,’” Kapule said. “They put me in a little waiting room. In came the radiologist and Shelly (Donaldson), the nurse navigator. That’s when I first met her.”
Next up for her was a biopsy. She was told there was a 15 percent chance it would come back positive for breast cancer. Kapule got the results of the biopsy Dec. 10.
“Shelly had a little blue folder in her hand,” Tami Kapule said. “She said, ‘How are you?’ And I said, ‘I feel like the balance of my life hangs in that folder.’”
With the diagnosis of breast cancer confirmed — it was in the first stage and detected early thanks to the vigilance of the staff at MultiCare, Kapule said — it was time to consider the options. A friend whom she works with encouraged her to meet with Dr. Richard Clarfeld, a surgeon at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue who specializes in breast cancer related procedures.
“We met with him and went over the options,” she said. “The options were lumpectomy with radiation. You can only do the radiation once. If the cancer comes back, you have to have a mastectomy. So, we opted for a double mastectomy to eliminate the possibility of any risk of recurrence.”
When the mastectomy was performed, she said, lymph nodes were removed as well. Those came back clear so the procedure was successful in that it eliminated all of the cancer.
While Tami Kapule was on the table, Dr. Jonathan Hutter of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, Inc., in Renton took on the reconstructive surgery.
“He has been able to rebuild what cancer took away from us,” Kapule said. “He was able to work with Dr. Carfeld and do an immediate reconstruction.”
And all this came shortly after three close family members, including her father-in-law, lost battles with cancer.
“You literally feel like you’re sucked into a vortex and each step you’re taking you’re in survival mode,” she said. “We had gone through so much grief and loss leading up to it.”
Her husband, Ren, lost his father three weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer. She was concerned that her kids — Blaine, 11, and Kylie, 17 — would think her going in for a biopsy meant she was going to die.
“I didn’t want to tell them until I had an absolutely confirmed diagnosis,” she said. “Now they’re going to see that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean death.”
Since her diagnosis and treatment, Tami Kapule said, she spent six weeks on the couch wishing she could get out. Her husband likes to hike and she had gone with him a few times, but, once she couldn’t go out all she could think about was hiking.
One day the Kapules were shopping in North Bend and looked over at Mount Si then decided they wanted to hike up it. They set a goal to do just that then asked their friends to go with them. Then she suggested talking to Donaldson to see if they could raise money.
It turns out, Ren Kapule said, funding for the Women Get It fund they wish to support was cut earlier this year.
“It is to help women who do not have insurance or whose insurance does not cover a mammogram or ultrasound,” he said. “Being that we had two insurance plans that covered everything, we could imagine not having insurance to cover this. It hits close because I know what she went through and I couldn’t imagine someone else going through it without the support or having to worry about the financial aspect.”
With all the family dealt with leading up to the results of the biopsy in December, a tough time got tougher, but they handled it.
“When she was diagnosed, there were a lot of things going through my head,” her husband said. “Dad had just passed away. Thank God for past employers and my 401(k). I had burned through my leave (when his dad was sick). I wasn’t going to let someone else take care of my wife. Thanks to my 401(k) I was able to take a month off to take care of her.”
So they set a goal of raising $5,000. As of Monday, they were about $100 away from raising the money, in part through selling T-shirts emblazoned with a logo and the name of the event, Mountains to Mammaries, on the front. Ren Kapule designed the logo which also incorporated a pink ribbon.
“Response so far has been phenomenal,” Tami Kapule said. “My family has stepped up to do a big barbecue picnic (after the hike). We’re just going to celebrate the accomplishment. That’s going to segue into my last surgery (July 22). It’s going to be a very emotional day.”
Once they decided to hike Mount Si this summer, they started training, Ren Kapule said, first with short walks in their neighborhood then all through Black Diamond then to Mount Peak.
With that $5,000 going to the Women Get It fund, 25 patients will be able to receive help they may not have otherwise gotten due to financial constraints.
Cancer has not only changed Tami Kapule physically, it has changed her family.
“Our days off have changed,” Ren Kapule said. “We don’t spend time around the house. We go out and live life. We go out and hike and do something because you never know. It really changed our perspective on life.”