Laurey Hansen-Carl said she could be the poster child for breast cancer awareness.
As the keynote speaker for the 16th annual Mad Hatter’s Tea on Oct. 11 at the Sunland Golf & Country Club, Hansen-Carl, a therapist, said she put off a mammogram because she was too busy. After seeing some publicity in the newspaper, she decided to make some time for the test.
Thankfully, technicians caught her breast cancer early, which led her to have a bilateral mastectomy, removing breast tissue that could develop cancer in both breasts.
“I didn’t want to worry about it coming back,” she said. “And I’m old enough not to want to do reconstruction (of her breasts).”
She shared her survivor’s story for a crowd of 186 people, with many of them cancer survivors. The event marked two years since she was diagnosed, which Hansen-Carl said made the day even more emotional.
Hansen-Carl said her first choice after diagnosis was whether or not she wanted to live.
“It was a crystal clear opportunity to see what’s really important in life,” she said. “I changed my diet and did some deep spiritual work with my own psyche.”
Both her mother and aunt had breast cancer, Hansen-Carl said but she was free of the genes linked to cancer. She had the bilateral mastectomy surgery in December 2011 and remains cancer-free today.
Going through treatment, she didn’t have insurance but received help from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation until she was 65 when she went on Medicare.
Deb Keeting-Hansen, her sister-in-law, attended the event in support and made hats for them.
“Her story is very moving,” Keeting-Hansen said. “She’s very eloquent. We had a bad scare two years ago but she was like a rock and so brave.”
Offering advice for all women, Hansen-Carl recommends they don’t wait any longer for mammograms.
“For some the thought of a mammogram is scary but technicians are gentle and supportive,” she said.
“With improved technology it’s a lot better. For a majority of women, it shows they are cancer free. But they caught mine early. The earlier they can diagnose it the better.”
Since her diagnosis and treatment, Hansen-Carl said it’s amazing to find how many survivors are in the area.
“The whole process has been healing for me,” she said. “I feel very supported through this community.”
Rising up in support
Hansen-Carl definitely wasn’t alone in her cancer survivor story.
Several breast cancer survivors stood in recognition of their battles. The whole room stood when prompted if they knew someone afflicted with breast cancer.
Patricia Osterberg of Port Angeles attended for the second year after being invited by Sky Heatherton, a fellow breast cancer survivor.
“Women with cancer have a special bond,” she said.
Celebrating three years being cancer-free, Osterberg said anyone can help someone with cancer even if they can’t do what they used to do.
Several members of the Klahane Hiking Club returned to the event to show their support for cancer survivors and those currently receiving treatment.
Rosie Tomlin said the club goes on tough hikes upwards of 17 or 18 miles but they can soften up and wear pink when it matters.
About the tea
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party started as a small gathering of friends to support Jan Chatfield following her cancer treatment in 1998 and has grown dramatically to raise tens of thousands of dollars for cancer charities and programs.
The hat honors those receiving treatment so that they aren’t alone. Its motto is to support awareness and early detection of beast cancer for women in the community.