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Pink Wigs Go Public

November 5, 2012

Do you ever have a day that starts out ordinary and becomes extraordinary?

One recent Thursday morning I met a friend for coffee at a nearby Starbucks.  She is interested in pursuing a career at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where I currently serve as an event manager on the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer.

We watched a group of young women exchange laughs while waiting for their coffee drinks.  Nothing surprising about that except this:  They were all sporting sassy pink wigs.

Since this was the day after Halloween, I assumed they were likely in costume.  When one of the women asked if I’d take a photo of them, I asked what occasion they were celebrating.

It was anything but.  Life changes on a dime.

Summer Johnson, a 34-year-old mother of two, had just had her head shaved that morning, and all her best friends were there to support her.  Her own long blonde locks will be used to create a custom wig.

Last January, Summer visited her doctor complaining about a lump and pain in her breast.  She was told she just had “lumpy breasts” and that it was nothing because she was young and had no history of breast cancer in her family.  She went home, stopped worrying, and got back to living.

Nine months later her breast had significantly increased in size and she knew something was really off.   This time when she visited her doctor she was fast-tracked for a mammogram, ultrasound and finally a biopsy.

Tests confirmed her Stage 4 breast cancer had spread to her liver.

When I asked Summer if I could share her story, she said, “Yes – tell everyone.  If I had received a mammogram last January, my cancer may not have spread to my liver.”

Summer has begun chemotherapy and consumes of cocktail of drugs to beat back her breast cancer.

Perusing Summer’s website outlines her sunny personality and wicked sense of humor.  Her friends threw together a hasty fundraiser to help with her medical expenses and raised over $6,000.

Meeting those pink ladies reminded me of how fortunate we are to have innovative breast cancer research here in our backyard.  Research I hope Summer will benefit from as she fights back an aggressive cancer.

We are pulling for you too, Summer.

Summer Johnson (third from left) and her band of Pink Ladies, Bellevue Square, November 1, 2012.

Editor’s note – I’m dedicating my Mt. Rainier climb next summer to this cool pink lady, Summer Johnson. LJC.

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