Faces of Cancer: Kennewick woman helps others through cancer fight

By Andy Perdue, Tri-City HeraldOctober 25, 2011 

KENNEWICK — A Kennewick woman who battled breast cancer remembers how she felt during treatment and has dedicated her life to helping others going through the same experience.

Cari Mitchell runs Chest of Hope, a nonprofit that provides such services as housekeeping, meals, transportation and information to women battling breast cancer.

In 2006, Mitchell was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer on her left side and stage 1 breast cancer on her right side. During the next 10 months, she endured a bilateral mastectomy, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments and a hysterectomy.

"I went through all of this while working," said Mitchell, 50. "It was so overwhelming because you have the pressure of taking care of your family while going through your treatment. It's a huge whirlwind."

To help others in similar situations, Mitchell launched Chest of Hope in October 2006 with a charity golf tournament at Canyon Lakes, where she worked for 10 years. To date, Chest of Hope has raised more than $100,000, all of which stays in the community to help breast cancer patients.

The organization provides "necessity bags" at Kadlec to women who have had breast cancer surgery. In it is a book that helps answer questions about breast cancer, as well as coupons for such services as housekeeping, meals, massage therapy and fitness classes. Kadlec hands out more than 100 bags annually, and Chest of Hope plans to expand the program to doctors throughout the Tri-Cities.

"We try to provide some of those little things so you know your family is taken care of while you're going through breast cancer treatment," she said.

Mitchell said her original plan was to go into women's homes to provide direct services, but insurance costs to do this were astronomical.

The organization also pays for mammograms when insurance doesn't, and it recently helped buy a $15,000 piece of equipment for Kadlec that provides MRI biopsies. Prior to this purchase, patients had to travel to Seattle or Spokane for the tests.

"It wasn't in Kadlec's budget, so we put it in our budget," Mitchell said.

At first, Mitchell and her husband, Steve, were doing most of the heavy lifting with the organization. Now, however, Chest of Hope has a board of directors and dozens of volunteers who help with events. McCurley and Sun Mart are huge supporters in its fundraising efforts.

"We want to help our local mothers, daughters and sisters," she said. "We want to help them get through this."

-- Information: www.kadlec.org/foundation/services/

-- Andy Perdue: 582-1405; aperdue@tricityherald.com. The lavender ribbon we are using in this series represents awareness of all cancers.

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