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Like mother like daughter – two nurses with a purpose

SPONSORED — With Nurses Week being celebrated around the country last week, and Mother’s Day this past Sunday, there is no story quite like mother and daughter Diane and Christen.

Diane Heye, a veteran oncology nurse at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, has a new colleague who is also a familiar one: Her daughter, Christen Heye.

The dynamic duo shares more than genetics and history. Together, they share experiences, frustrations, joys and the precious moments only nurses can appreciate. They understand each other.

Both have also experienced the difficulties that come with a cancer diagnosis.

As an undergraduate nursing student getting ready to begin her final semester at Boston College, Christen was diagnosed with primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that typically affects young women.

“On January 4, 2013, my life changed forever,” Christen recalled. That was the day she was diagnosed with primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that typically affects young women. At the time, Christen was about to start her final semester at Boston College.

“The months of nagging pain in my chest were not caused by stress or a blood clot or an infection,” she said. “I had a tumor.”

After her diagnosis, Christen received life-saving chemotherapy treatments at SCCA, which offered her an expected survival rate of 97 percent.

Her mother Diane was with her all the way.

“My mom gave me hope when I lost it, gave me strength when I couldn’t pick myself up, and loved me unconditionally. And guess what, she still does,” Christen said.

Diane’s support didn’t end with Christen’s cancer treatments. As a longtime nurse, Christen always looked up to her mother – to the point that she pursued nursing herself.

“Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse,” she recalled. “At first I wanted to be just like my mom. It wasn’t until I was on the receiving end of nursing care at SCCA that I truly understood the impact that nursing can make.”

That impact has had a profound effect on Christen’s life. Since her diagnosis and treatment, Christen has become a passionate advocate and fundraiser for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The organization holds particular importance to Christen with its mission to find cures for blood cancers and to assist patients and their families as they battle these diseases.

Christen credits her excellent treatment and survival to the research funded through Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Now, she’s paying it forward; Christen was recently named “Woman of the Year” by the WA-AK Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society due to her fundraising and advocacy efforts.

That’s an important cause, with one person in the United States diagnosed with a blood cancer every three minutes, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. That’s 170,000 Americans diagnosed every year, so it’s no surprise that so many lives are affected by a mother, father, brother, sister, spouse or loved one diagnosed with a blood cancer.

For Diane Heye, it was a daughter. And after years of working with cancer patients, she was able to offer her own daughter the patient care she’s so passionately offered to SCCA patients for decades.

Now, together, this mother-daughter duo continues to fight against cancer.

“I know and appreciate what she does because I see it, have known it, and I live it,” Diane said.

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