Karyn Turner was surprised in 2016 when she was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. There is no history of cancer or any other serious illness in her family and she leads a reasonably healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, it was discovered early and treated with surgery and a single dose of radiation.
She was even more surprised when she discovered a lump under her arm in July 2020. Turner didn’t take any chances and decided to get it checked out right away, despite not having a mammogram until October.
The biopsy came back positive. “It said the cancer is back and this time it’s aggressive,” said Turner.
The diagnosis was HER2-positive stage 3 breast cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes. The treatment recommendation was surgery followed by chemotherapy.
“It’s scary to hear the words cancer and chemo. But my team at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is the best. I have never felt more comfortable for someone who goes through this, ”said Turner.
She started chemotherapy and Turner thinks she suffered every negative side effect – dizziness, nausea, neuropathy, even lost her hair and fingernails. The surgery, scheduled for December 2020, had to be postponed for three months when she got COVID-19.
On March 25, she underwent surgery to remove 27 lymph nodes, 25 of them cancerous. Turner will continue chemotherapy until next year under the watchful eye of her husband, Richard, who has also survived cancer, who has been diagnosed with two bouts of bladder cancer.
On Thursday, May 13, two days before the couple’s 36th wedding anniversary, Turner will be introduced as the Mariners Honorary Bat Girl and throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Mariners play against Cleveland Indians at T-Mobile Park.
Honorary Bat Girl is a program started in 2006 by Major League Baseball to raise awareness and funds to support breast cancer research. Every spring, the Mariners’ Official Partner in Health, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, joins the Mariners to recognize breast cancer survivors and promote the work of VMFH’s health professionals.
Turner’s care team includes primary care provider Ellen Frechette, MD, surgeon Debra Wechter, MD, and oncologist Meaghan O’Malley, MD.
With Dr. O’Malley, her RN or my other doctors, it’s like sitting and talking with a friend. It was scary to be diagnosed with this and knowing that I had to do chemo and surgery. They spoke to me off the ledge and said, “This is going to be okay. We have a plan.” It’s just comfortable. That’s how they make you feel, “Turner said.
Turner is looking forward to getting stronger and traveling to California as soon as it is safe to see her children, grandchildren and new great-grandson. She and Richard are eager to compete in national bowling tournaments again. She has a respectable average of 202 and Richard throws 240, which puts him on a par with many professionals.
In the meantime, she has advice for any woman who may have delayed their mammography due to the fallout from the COVID-19 shutdown: “You should keep up to date with your annual screenings and self-exams. I insist that the women in my life make appointments and go in to get their mammograms, ”said Turner.