My name is Bella McCarthy May. My sister, Maria McCarthy Anderson passed away six years ago after a battle with synovial sarcoma. Let me tell you a little about her and how the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation has made an impact on my family. At age 27 my sister started having issues with her right elbow. Her fingers were numb, and she was in a lot of pain. She was told by doctors that it was a benign tumor, and it was removed. Maria went on to marry the love of her life, Peter Anderson. Shortly after marrying, they had 2 kids and a busy family life. My sister was a successful businesswoman- she was a property manager and helped run a construction company. She was smart, witty, compassionate, and fun… most importantly she was my best friend. We were very close and talked at least twice a day. She introduced me to my husband Doug. Her husband was one of Doug’s best friends. As a result, we spent a lot of time together and created a tight knit family unit. My husband and I took all our vacations with Maria and Pete and their kids, along with our parents Steve and Liz. Despite not living in the same state, we managed to see each other at least once a month. We were so close that when I started trying to have kids, Maria also decided to have more kids so our children could be similar ages. The plan worked and Maria had twins while my kids were born 17 months apart. While this was a special time for our families, it also was difficult because the pain in Maria’s elbow and arm returned. After her twins were born, this pain continued to get worse. She traveled all over the country meeting with various doctors trying to figure out what was happening. She saw many pain specialists and even got a spinal cord stimulator in her back to help with the pain. Despite these efforts, her pain continued. By the time Maria’s twins were 5-year-old she had all but given up on finding answers to her pain. Maria then met with doctors at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma at age 43. It was at SCCA that she worked with a team of doctors who were experts in sarcoma cancer. The team of doctors included Chappie Conrad, Gabrielle Kane, and Seth Pollack. They were amazing and worked tirelessly to provide the best care for my sister. They also showed deep compassion for my sister, often asking her about the kids, taking time to get to know me and Maria’s husband as we helped her navigate through the healthcare system. They went above and beyond our expectations. This care became evident when my sister’s husband Pete suddenly passed away from a heart attack. As you can imagine this was a heart wrenching loss for everyone, especially my sister. All her doctors called to pass along condolences.
Despite her heartache, Maria continued to move forward in her fight against Sarcoma. Six months after her husband’s death, on Jan 12th, 2017, my sister passed away.
While this is a tragic story filled with painful loss for our family, it is also filled with strength, love, and gifts. Our tight knit family continues as my husband, and I adopted my sister’s children and integrated them with our biological kids. We went from a family of 4 to a family of 8. It has been a gift and a blessing to be able to help raise Maria and Pete’s kids. We have not done it all alone. The phrase “It takes a village” is very true. Our community of amazing friends (some are here today) and my parents (who are also here) have been our village. They have helped our family navigate through challenging times and they have also helped each of our 6 children grow and flourish.
In thinking about Maria’s journey, I always go back to those years between ages 27 and 43, when Maria suffered through surgeries, procedures, and pain management on her right arm. Ultimately, I wonder what could have happened if Maria’s doctors had been exposed to some of Chappie’s expertise here in Seattle. In this way, the work of the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation is very real for me.
I believe that the foundation’s focus on education and research could help future patients identify this disease early, thereby improving and extending lives. Having experienced Maria’s care before and after her treatment at SCCA makes our family’s commitment to the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation very real. We know how important the foundation’s mission can be for patients that are searching for answers.
My daughters Maribel and Stella are also working to support the care package program. Together as a family with first-hand experience benefitting from the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation, we ask that you consider donating to this amazing organization.