From cancer, to a crash, to the top of Alaska

Ouch. It’s almost painful just looking at recent pictures of Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy.

Snapshots show her with two black eyes, a broken and scraped nose, swollen lips, other abrasions and 10 stitches. Ouch. What happened?

A bicycle commuter, Dingledy was headed home May 6. After getting off the bus at the Ash Way Park-and-Ride, she was riding east on 164th Street SW in Lynnwood. Past the Walmart store, she was in the bike lane going downhill.

A car was going the same direction.

“She turned right in front of me,” said Dingledy, whose 44th birthday was two days before the crash. “I think I was standing on my brakes. I don’t remember anything. According to somebody who stopped, I did a somersault and landed on my face.”

The driver was cited by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Dingledy said, “and her insurance company has been very nice.”

Dingledy was taken by a Fire District 1 aid car to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Colby campus. Stitched up and treated with pain medication, she got home after midnight and missed three days of work.

Yes, she is the same intrepid woman featured in this column in January. She had a double mastectomy in December, and was in training to climb Alaska’s 20,320-foot Denali, also called Mount McKinley.

And yes, just three weeks after her bike accident, Dingledy plans to be on a plane Monday bound for Anchorage. “We go onto the mountain on Thursday,” Dingledy said earlier this week. The climbing trip is expected to end June 19.

To prepare, Dingledy climbs stairs with a heavy pack. Bicycle rides will have to wait. “I don’t have a new helmet. I plan on getting back on the bike, but not before I climb,” she said.

It’s more than a personal goal. Dingledy’s climb with her “Celebrating Recovery” team is part of the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer, a fundraiser for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. As a judge she can’t ask for donations, yet more than $15,000 has been raised for the team.

In 2003, Dingledy learned she had inherited an altered BRCA2 gene, meaning she had a much higher-than-normal risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. Her genetic story is similar to what Angelina Jolie recently revealed.

The actress shined a spotlight on the issue this month by announcing she had chosen to have a double mastectomy after testing positive for a mutated BRCA1 gene. Like Dingledy’s gene, it also means a high likelihood of getting breast cancer.

Dingledy had a preventative hysterectomy in 2011. Last year, she learned she had a type of breast cancer. She had already considered preventative mastectomy, but when the disease showed up her decision was made.

“I guess I was ahead of Angelina. Her story came out a day or two after my crash,” Dingledy said. “I think it’s great she made her story public. Women should not be ashamed to have undergone a mastectomy. We are not defined by our breasts. I hope that her story resonates with other women, and helps them make informed decisions about their own health. Knowledge is power.”

After getting past her major surgeries, Dingledy is recovering from the accident she never saw coming. This week, her dentist put temporary crowns on her broken front teeth.

Because her face and mouth hurt so much, she didn’t notice at first that her shoulder also was injured. A shoulder separation is healing, and Dingledy said it shouldn’t cause a problem with her backpack during the climb.

“I feel so lucky. It could have been so much worse,” she said.

Shortly after returning to work, Dingledy was welcoming people called for jury duty. “It was hard to talk. I told people, ‘I don’t normally look like this,’” she said.

It’s one thing to go to work just days after a painful accident. But climbing the highest peak in North America?

“I should be fine,” Dingledy said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Learn more

Find out about the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer at: http://getinvolved.fhcrc.org/site/PageServer?pagename=2011climb_greeting

Follow via cybercast Marybeth Dingledy’s climb beginning Thursday at:

http://www.alpineascents.com/cybercasts.asp

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