Fourteen years ago, Tracy Kiyabu was a busy mom of a 2-year-old and an 11-year-old. Kiyabu, 33 at the time, just completed a marathon, and felt healthy. Then she got the unexpected and devastating news: She had breast cancer.
Kiyabu’s mother had died of breast cancer, and out of fear she was tested for the breast cancer gene. The test results came back negative. For Kiyabu, this made her diagnosis even more of a surprise.
“I was between a stage two and a stage three of breast cancer,” she said. “I went through surgery and six months of chemo and six weeks of radiation.”
While Kiyabu said her year of cancer diagnosis was a dark chapter in her life, she credits her children and the rest of her family and friends for carrying her through.
“It causes you to cherish every day, and I am grateful for every day,” the Puyallup resident said. “I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone; it is really tough but I got so much out of it. I met so many courageous people through my journey with cancer.”
Once Kiyabu was back on her feet after her cancer battle, she was looking for ways to give back to those who are in similar positions she once was. Looking back, she remembered the American Cancer Society coming to her home as a child to provide services for her mom.
“I just wanted to give back after my journey,” she said.
From there, Kiyabu has given tirelessly her time as a cancer survivor to walk with women currently undergoing breast cancer treatment through the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program.
“As breast cancer survivors, our volunteers give patients and family members an opportunity to express feelings, talk about fears and concerns, and ask questions of someone who has been there,” the American Cancer Society’s website says of the program. “Most importantly, Reach To Recovery volunteers offer understanding, support, and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer and gone on to live productive lives.”
In addition to volunteering with the Reach to Recovery program, Kiyabu has also volunteered with Puyallup’s Relay for Life for the last two years.
“I started going to meetings, and through it I have met a lot of great people,” she said of her involvement with the fundraising event.
Starting at noon on Saturday (June 27) and running through Sunday at noon at Sparks Stadium in downtown Puyallup, Relay for Life kicks off the traditional 24-hour event.
“Since cancer never sleeps, people are up and on the track through out the night,” Kiyabu said.
So far, the event has 41 teams and more than 438 total participants registered. Kiyabu and other volunteers are hopeful they will reach their $175,000 fundraising goal at the event.
To volunteer or to donate to the event, contact Rhonda Kirkes at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit relayforlife.org/Puyallupwa.