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Faith, friends and family crucial in defeating breast cancer for Oak Harbor survivor

A beaming Patricia “Annie” Martin, above, finished the last of her treatments in December.   - Sara Hansen / Whidbey News-Times
A beaming Patricia “Annie” Martin, above, finished the last of her treatments in December.
— image credit: Sara Hansen / Whidbey News-Times

After a long Labor Day weekend in 2009, Patricia “Annie” Martin learned she had breast cancer.

Shortly after the discovery on Oct. 6, 2009, she underwent a lumpectomy to remove the 4.7 centimeter tumor, along with the 13 lymph nodes.

This was only the beginning on her road to recovery.

Martin said the fear of not knowing what the treatment entailed was scary, and she asked God to show her a sign that it was going to be OK. During her first chemotherapy appointment, when they brought out the red medicine, she said she saw it as a symbol for the blood of Christ.

That, she said, gave her the strength she needed.

“It was my healing juice, my Jesus juice,” Martin said.

Martin underwent 24 weeks of chemotherapy. During that time, she made friends with the other women who were there. They became a sisterhood, enjoying their triumphs and supporting each other through their struggles.

Martin said she enjoyed seeing them, and they still stay in touch.

After the chemotherapy ended, she said she took a short break before starting eight weeks of radiation treatments.

The reality of her condition set in when her hair started falling out. She would wash her hair and handfuls would come out in the shower. She didn’t want to deal with the gradual loss of her hair, so her children Lindsay and Logan Williams helped.

They set-up a chair in the bathtub, and Logan cut off his mother’s hair. When he finished, Lindsay shaved her mother’s head.

Martin moved to Whidbey Island in 2001 and joined the Church of the Nazarene that same year. She even met her husband, Todd Martin, in Bible study. They’ve been married for nine and a half years.

“This is where I landed, and this is where I stayed,” Martin said.

“This is my home.”

Martin has five children, three from her marriage to Todd. All of their children live on Whidbey Island, as well as their six grandchildren, ranging from ages 2 to 12.

Some of her grandchildren showed their support by walking with her at Relay for Life. Her granddaughter, Jennifer Martin, organized a fundraiser by selling baked goods at her parent’s store when she was 7 years old.

Martin’s husband is her biggest supporter, and he’s stood by her through thick and thin, she said. He drove her to all the radiation appointments in Bellingham.

Martin said she knows that trials happen to everyone in life.

“I don’t ask, ‘Why me?’” Martin said. “’I ask, ‘Why not me?’”

Breast cancer doesn’t run in her family, but her sister was diagnosed late with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2001. Just three months later, she died at age 42, Martin said.

Because of Martin’s journey, she reaches out to others in the community and through Facebook.

“If I couldn’t help someone else it was all for nothing,” Martin said.

“This isn’t about me.”

Martin said she couldn’t have gotten through it without the support of her family, friends, coworkers and church.

“It’s not a path we were meant to walk alone,” Martin said. “It’s a lonely place to be if you don’t have someone to help you through it.”

For many people, letting others help them is the hardest part.

Once she was diagnosed, the congregation at her church put up a calendar and scheduled members to drive her to all of her appointments. Her pastor even drove her. People also volunteered to bring meals to her home.

“Everyone lined up to drive me,” Martin said. “I don’t think I had to cook the entire time.”

The Ladies Ministry Group organized a pink party and brought gifts so she had a present to open every time she went to her chemotherapy treatments on Wednesdays.

Martin said she likes to wear these items in October. They include her pink ribbon earrings and pink watch that were given to her.

Jacque and Chuck Fye, a couple at her church, gave Martin a pink ribbon scarf because their daughter had lost her own fight with breast cancer.

Martin finished her final set of preventive treatments in December, and now her life is getting back on track. Her hair has grown back, but it didn’t come back black and straight like it once was. Now it’s grey and curly. Martin said that’s common with a lot of patients who  come off chemo.

“The most amazing part of it all is to realize you’re on this journey. Look beyond the storm, and you can find the good.”

 

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