Linda Amendola, 61, is a runner. She eats healthy food and has never smoked. And, for work, she is a mammogram technician.
None of that mattered, though, when Linda Amendola got breast cancer.
"I do regular self-exams and I noticed a little dimpling," she begins. "I never thought it would happen to me."
And then, "I shouldn't have skipped my mammogram."
Yep. Cancer happens even to the professionals. When Linda skipped her mammogram, the Amendolas were in the process of moving to Yakima from Oregon. Her husband, Mark, was already here settling into his job. She was working full time and selling the house there.
"I think everybody thinks it won't happen to them," she says. "But I had a sister-in-law who died of breast cancer at 38 and another one who is a 10-year survivor."
Linda's breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma, wasn't discovered until she joined Mark here and began her new job at `Ohana, Yakima Valley Memorial's Mammography Center. "I saw how large it was when I saw the mammogram images. I was very fortunate not to have involvement of my lymph nodes."
Soon after discovering the cancer, April 2017, Linda began chemotherapy with Dr. Vicky Jones at North Star Lodge, had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and then started radiation with Dr. Steven Register. "North Star was wonderful. The nurses are so compassionate, even the front desk people. And I can't forget how great the volunteers were. They brought me pillows and warm blankets, snacks, ice water and juice, almost even before I knew wanted it.
"If I didn't have North Star I would have been driving to Seattle every three weeks for a year."
"Linda's tough," says Mark. "But North Star Lodge is the real hero."
Mark and their two daughters were there for Linda every step of the way. "They were very, very supportive. And Mark was awesome: he cooked, he cleaned, he went to every chemo and doctor's appointment with me.
"I also had great co-workers who called to see if they could go to the grocery store or do any cooking for me."
Today, though, Linda has completed her year of "exhaustion and everything tasting bad (even ice cream!)."
"I just had my (chemotherapy) port removed on Tuesday. I'm all finished!"
Now it's back to life at full throttle. In fact, even before she had finished chemotherapy, Linda joined her family at the Wenatchee Marathon on April 20, 2018, running the half. "It wasn't pretty," she says. "It was my slowest half ever, 2:17."
Perhaps. But her previous marathon times make Linda automatically eligible for the New York Marathon this November.
"I don't know why I developed breast cancer, but because I did God has brought the most wonderful people into my life.
"Life is good," she says over a cup of coffee, the sun making her smile even brighter. "I have a lot to look forward to. We like to travel. We have a trip planned to Tahiti. So that's the goal."
Has her own experience affected her work at `Ohana? You bet.
"I'm extra supportive now, especially about the fear factor. Now I know. "