Anne Hartline takes an old saying — to have your cake and eat it too — and turns it into a corny joke. She’s serious, though — very serious.
“I want to have my wake and be there too,” Hartline said Tuesday.
That’s what has been happening the past few weeks at the Arlington-area home she shares with her husband, John Hartline.
Friends come by, including those who’ve shared long hours with Hartline at the Regional Cancer Partnership of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Cancer patients she has never met find their way to her door. They thank her for the concern and advice she shared even while fighting her own war with breast cancer.
Hartline is 58. She hopes to see 59. There is much to do, and she doesn’t expect much time to do it.
“I’ve been writing a book about this 12-and-a-half-year-walk with God, through cancer,” Hartline said. She hasn’t settled on a title, but has an idea: “Living While Dying.”
It’s been a grueling fight.
Hartline was 47 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She underwent a lumpectomy, had radiation and chemotherapy. After celebrating five years cancer-free, she again discovered she had breast cancer. A mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and more chemotherapy followed.
Then in October 2007, excruciating pain turned out to be the spread of the disease to her liver. Although Hartline said her longtime oncologist, Dr. James Congdon, didn’t expect she’d live more than three months, she tried a new drug called Avastin through a clinical trial. For almost two years, she had weekly chemotherapy. That stopped working, and her treatments have ceased.
The fight is over, but not her aim to help other patients.
A longtime employee at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, Hartline also worked as an educator for Providence Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County. Always, she shared all she learned about living with cancer.
When a friend would tell her an out-of-state relative had breast cancer, Hartline made a habit of reaching out to that stranger. If her phone rang, it was often someone newly diagnosed and in need of comfort.
“I have been so richly blessed,” Hartline said Tuesday. “For every take-away of this disease, there have been 20 or 40 blessings — fabulous people in my life.” On her dining room table is a guest book filled with names and expressions of love and thanks. She takes pictures with every visitor.
“We’ve just made it a party,” said Hartline, acknowledging that while many come to say goodbye, they often leave smiling.
Hartline said her doctor doesn’t expect her to live more than a few months. Still, there’s what Hartline said Dr. Congdon calls “the Annie factor,” her tenacious spirit. “Actually, it’s the God factor,” she said. With a strong Christian faith, Hartline believes her disease has been a gift to be used in service to others.
Overwhelmed with gifts and flowers, Hartline now asks that donations go to Providence General Foundation for a fund to be used for patients in need. “So many people don’t have the support I have. They have to choose, ‘Do I buy shoes for my child for school or pay a co-pay for my anti-nausea drug?’” she said.
In opening her home and being forthright, she’s carrying on the way she handled chemotherapy.
“At the chemo lounge, people would show up, other patients, and request to be near me,” she said. “For my last treatment, we had those little paper parasols, like in frou-frou drinks. You can’t choose your chemo cocktail, but you can choose the color of the parasol that goes with it. We made it a fun time,” she said.
“I know where I’m going when I leave this world,” Hartline said. “The chemo lounge is being upgraded to first class.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, email@example.com.
Breast cancer events this month
Snohomish County will host two events this month in the fight against breast cancer.
Anne Hartline is involved in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Snohomish County. The walk starts at 10 a.m., with registration at 9 a.m., on Sept. 27 at Everett’s American Legion Memorial Park. Information: www.pugetsoundstrides.org.
The Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day, which benefits Susan G. Komen For the Cure, begins Friday at Shoreline Community College. The 60-mile walk route includes parts of Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mukilteo and Everett. Information: www.the3day.org and click on “Spectator Information Page.”