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Cancer awareness special • Pages 8 and 9


Serving Orcas, Lopez and San Juan County

WEDNESDAY, October 16, 2013  VOL. 46, NO. 42  75¢

Beating the odds

Islander Teri Williams is a stage three breast cancer survivor by COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG Publisher/Editor

It’s a love story and a survival story all wrapped up in one. For more than a year, Teri Williams fought to rid her body of stage three breast cancer. That included a double mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. And she didn’t face it alone – her husband Jay Fowler was by her side every step of the way. “Having a partner to share the journey with you is the key to surviving,” she said.“I fell in love with my husband all over again. There is something between us that we didn’t have before.” Williams’ cancer has been in remission for six years, but the emotions – triumph, sadness, gratitude, peace – are still fresh. The greatest lesson she learned was to spend more time in the garden and on the sailboat with her husband. “People came out of the woodwork to help and it was really

hard for me to accept that,” she said. “You don’t realize how many people care when you are just walking around healthy.” One day a huge group of friends came over and cleaned up her garden, readying it for the coming spring. “To sit on the couch and watch everyone else working – the universe was teaching me something: how to accept help,” Williams said. “I was a workaholic.”

Earth-shattering news Prior to her diagnosis, Williams had mammograms every year and they never detected anything amiss. It wasn’t until she had a bruise-like pain on her right side that she realized something was wrong. An ultrasound discovered a stage three, lobular tumor deep inside her breast. “I was shocked,” she said. “We don’t have cancer in our family. We die of old age and orneriness.” Her medical team at Seattle

Contributed photo and Colleen Smith Armstrong photo

After her breast cancer treatment and surgeries, including a double mastectomy, Teri Williams says, “I have a deeper understanding about how much people can care and give.” She credits her husband Jay, pictured above left, with accompanying her on the journey. He was with her every step of the way during the year of treatment. Cancer Care Alliance laid out the game plan: a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. The night before her first surgery, the couple had pedicures, and then Williams danced in a red bra to jazz piano in Daniel’s

Broiler restaurant. “It was a farewell to my boob,” she said. Williams’ right breast and all of the surrounding lymph nodes were taken out first. She had chemo every week for six

Bea vonTobel to retire from Port of Orcas by CALI BAGBY Staff reporter

Bea vonTobel has a few things on her to-do list: spend more time with her wife Cindy Elliott, renovate her kitchen and bathroom, revamp her deck and build a plane. After 13 years as airport manager, vonTobel, shown at right, is retiring. “By the time I walk out the door I’ll be 72,” said vonTobel. “I want to find out what I want to be when I grow up. The Peter Pan complex is alive and well with me.” Thirty-two applicants presented their resumes to the port commissioners in hopes of winning what vonTobel calls the best job on the island. After a public meeting on Thursday night port commissioners selected Anthony “Tony” Simpson as their top choice and elected him as the new manager. “Tony’s education and experience will serve him well in his new position,” wrote vonTobel in a press release.

Simpson is a native of Delaware and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, with graduate degrees from the University of Washington and the Naval Postgraduate School. He has 20-plus years of experience in operations in Afghanistan, Korea and Japan. He will finish his current position as a technical training expert for Boeing Aerospace Operations based at Misawa Airbase in Japan later this month and return to Orcas, where his

family lives now. His return to the island completes the circle for his wife Blythe and their two children. Blythe, who grew up on Orcas, is employed in the OASIS program of the Orcas Island School District. vonTobel said Simpson will have plenty to keep him busy at his new position. “You’re on the job everyday learning. There is so much variety and you have intellectual challenges and problem solving inside and outdoors,” vonTobel said. She has worked on many different levels at the airport from finance to communicating with the public to working with the port commissioners whom she describes as “absolutely wonderful.” She started working as manager in 2000 after a career at Orcas Island School District as the K-12 counselor. Before that she worked in construction and at the golf course.


months and then they moved to downtown Seattle for eight weeks, where she underwent radiation every day. Somewhere during all this her breasts became Betty and Wilma. “Betty went first,” she said. “I


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Islands' Sounder, October 16, 2013  

October 16, 2013 edition of the Islands' Sounder

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