Sharon's Battle. Together We Fight.

I’ve know Sharon and Dennis for eight years. They have always been salt of the earth people, willing to lend a hand whenever needed without asking for a dime in return. Sharon was recently diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. With a healthy background like Sharron’s, always living and breathing the earth, it is hard to imagine a person coming down with such a severe form of cancer. However Sharon comes from a long family history of cancer. They believe this traces back to the Hanford nuclear site “blow off” in Walla Walla Washington where Sharon and her family lived throughout her childhood.

Sharon moved to Port Townsend in her twenties. As long as Sharon has lived here she has always been a hard worker, sometimes working at as many as three jobs at a time. Neither Sharon nor her husband Dennis, whom she says “is the best part of her life”, have been in serious debt. They don’t have credit cards and they don’t borrow money.  Sharon  owns her own home outright as well as Dennis owns a 5 acre parcel of property. While Sharon and Dennis have done well together Dennis has been laid off since early this year. The option to buy into his long standing companies insurance ends soon. This is a very frightening experience for both of them on many different levels. Sharon just ordered propane to heat their home and to cook with, with no idea of how to pay for it. The medical bills alone are ominous and mounting without any financial relief in sight. They owe over $4,000.00 in just medical bills before the hysterectomy and the current chemo treatments notwithstanding everyday life expenses.

Sharon had four full three week cycles of chemo therapy prior to a full hysterectomy.  She now has a port allowing doctors to put the chemo therapy right into the empty space in attempt to kill the remaining cancer cells.  Chemo will continue for an additional two months. Doctors were hopeful Sharon would make it to Christmas.  That is now an attainable goal increasing her survival chances and every ones hope for her full recovery.

It is with the most humble hearts that they ask for assistance. Any help generated for them, relieving stress in a hugely stressful time, would be a blessing.

For Sharon’s full story in her own words please read This is Sharon Tuke-Thompson’s Story below.

                  This is Sharon Tuke-Thompsons’s Story

I’m Walla Walla, Washington born, I have lived here all my life. I’m a third generation organic farmer but that didn’t save us from the effects of being Hanford Nuclear Sites “Down Winders”. The year my mother was pregnant with my brother Hanford had its first steam “blow off”. The year she was pregnant with me they had a slightly lesser one. Both blew to Walla Walla.

Daddy died when I was fourteen “natural causes”. Brother Danny was diagnosed with pleural cavity cancer when he was in the army in Germany. Mama was devastated when they told her he was born with it and the cancer had not activated until then. He died when I was sixteen. A couple of years later mama was diagnosed with cancer. She died when I was 23 my daughter was four.

We moved from Walla Walla to Spokane when I was very young. We had ten acres of farm, a huge garden, alfalfa, five acres of grain, chickens, goats a sheep and a steer that my brother would raise each year. He was in FFA I was a Girl Scout. Big sister Gail did school activities, little sister Karen was… odd. Daddy was a baker for Wonder Bread, Mama was an LPN ready to take the test for RN when they found her cancer. She got to see all of us graduate high school.

After Mama died Gail got married. Karen became a paranoid street person who heard voices. I visited a friend in Port Townsend and one month later I moved there.

I was lucky enough to qualify for welfare until I got settled. Since then I have worked har at many different jobs some times three at a time. I did some cocktail waitressing, (Manresa Castle and Bob’s Chineese) beer service, (Town Tavern, Back Alley), food prep and cooking, (Town Deli) and for quite a few years was part of a varied group of women known as the Hardly Famous Sisters Clothing Company selling new and used costumes that we made. Life was good.

I brought face painting to Port Townsend and sold arts and crafts and clothing I made for craft fairs, made flags and banners while teaching Peter Grit to sew, and eventually worked in food service, waitressing at Mom’s Café, salad maker at Discovery Bay and the Paradise in Port Ludlow. Then cooked on and off for Senior Nutrition for eleven years.

I’ve always eaten healfully and stayed physically and mentally active. My family considered me least likely to get cancer as we watched my father, brother and sister, my cousin, one of my mothers brothers, my favorite aunt, and most recently my younger sister die of cancer.

Now I have it.

The best part of my life is Dennis. We met briefly in 1980, then re-met in the late 80’s. I was married, but when that ended Dennis and I got together.

He had mostly done tree planting for many years with many off season jobs. He became a union construction worker (pile buck) and we married in January 2006. Neither of us is extravagant. I own my own house, he paid off his own property. Income was small but adequate.

While Dennis and I do very well together, the external world had been rough on us. 2006 began a three year legal easement battle with neighbors at Dennis’ property. Just before that was finalized in Spring 2009 I was rear ended at 55 miles an hour in stopped traffic on 101 at the Gardiner Hill. I was lucky enough to not get broken, but the torn muscles, stretched joints, bruising and concussions took three years to become mostly painless. The PTSD and emotional toll from the easement battle and insurance settlement are still with me.

In December 2012 I went to the birth of our almost daughters baby girl. What a wonderful experience.

When I came home my health began to deteriorate. I became run down for the first time in my life with less and less energy. By late winter early spring 2014 I felt exhausted much of the time and my breathing became less and less effective. I went to see my doctor thinking I was anemic. When iron therapy did not work and my breathing was so bad I could only walk twenty feet without having to sit down or lay down for five minutes to recover. I was sent to the hospital for breathing tests. They sent me to radiology where it was discovered I had enough fluid around my left lung to crush it to softball size. Two hours later they had me in ER to put a drain in my side. I could breathe better immediately. The greater but less immediate problem was that they had also found stage 4 ovarian cancer, the root of all my problems.

A few days later I was in Virginia Mason Hospital with a thoracic team and a cancer team of doctors. They removed my lung vacuum tube and arranged my outpatient chemo therapy care at Jefferson General in Port Townsend.

I had four three week cycles of chemo therapy before going back to Virginia Mason for a full hysterectomy. My cancer is a slow growing type less susceptible to IV therapy, so I have a “port” that allows the chemo to be put right in to the now empty hysterectomy area. Its purpose is to kill remaining cancer cells beginning to grow on the intestines and diaphragm. Chemo will continue for two more months. We will then begin the check and wait to see what happens stage.

Dennis’ job had good insurance but he was laid off early this year, we have been scrambling hard to keep insurance paid while living on unemployment, not to mention the regular monthly bills. It is impossible to keep up (or even begin to pay) the medical bills that insurance does not cover. I’ve begun the process to get financial aid at Virginia Mason, and will contact Jefferson General Hospital this week. I do not know if we will qualify. Our option of buying company insurance while Dennis is not working ends soon. He will begin work again, and hopefully we will not have a one month gap in our coverage.

Neither of us has ever been in serious debt. We don’t have credit cards, we don’t borrow money. This is new and frightening for us. Next to my health it is our biggest worry.

We owe three thousand dollars in property taxes. We owe almost four thousand dollars in medical bills, before the cost of the hysterectomy and the current chemo treatments. Health insurance goes up to $600 plus in January currently it is $588. I just ordered propane to heat and cook. I have no idea how to pay for it, or insurance. Any help would be greatly appreciated.


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Megan Rukkila 
Port Hadlock, WA
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