Celebrating survivorship at OHSU

In honor of National Cancer Survivors Day (June 4), we’re kicking off a new series highlighting OHSU employees who have personally experienced cancer – and how this unique and deeply personal perspective influences their work here. Thank you Matt, Kara, Christi and everyone who has already shared.

Matt McCallum

Matt_189Matt was in the best shape of his life and training for a half marathon when it started: the exhaustion, headaches and body pains. Soon after he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, a fast-growing form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Today, Matt coordinates clinical trials for the prostate cancer research team at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and says it’s a dream come true.

“The data we gather on these trials helps us better understand the disease and paves the way for future therapies and treatments,” says Matt. “I can’t think of a better reason to get out of bed in the morning.” Read more

Kara Skaflestad Dolce

 Kara_189“After being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 26, I was quickly faced with a woman in the mirror who I didn’t recognize. A woman with scars, no hair, no eyelashes and someone who looked a lot like me, but now with a wig, some pink lipstick and a bright scarf. Trying to look good helped me feel good.”

When she isn’t in the office, Knight Cancer Institute marketing manager Kara volunteers her time running a non-profit she launched soon after her diagnosis to help women battling cancer feel strong and beautiful. To date, “Fighting Pretty” has sent 4,000 Pretty Packages to 49 U.S. states and 7 countries. Today, Kara is nine years cancer free and says she tries to “start each day with a deep breath and gratitude for whatever comes.”

Christi Richardson-Zboralski

 Christi_189During a routine exam, Christi’s gynecologist noticed a node in the thyroid bed area on her neck. Soon after, she was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer that had metastasized to some of her lymph nodes. It’s been eight years since she had her thyroid and 42 lymph nodes removed at OHSU. She says she found strength through writing and connecting with others who have experienced cancer.

“Seek support even if you don’t think you need it,” Christi advises. “It is an extremely emotional experience even if you get a highly treatable type of cancer.” Today, Christi is part of the communications team at the OHSU School of Nursing.

Do you have a survivorship story you’d like to share with us? Please email KnightCancerCom@ohsu.edu.