You should always listen to your mother.
And Dana Ralph knows better.
By responding to her mother’s persistent pleas to undergo a mammogram, the Kent City Council member and mayoral candidate has a great chance to beat the fight that unexpectedly cornered her in early March – a sudden bout with breast cancer.
“My mother continued to hassle me about getting it scheduled. (She) basically threatened me that if I didn’t do it myself, that she would make the appointment herself and take me,” said Ralph, a fourth-generation Kent resident and businesswoman who has served on the council for eight years.
“I honestly would not have made the appointment had it not been for my mother nagging me,” Ralph said. “I truly would have continued to put it off, and for no good reason. … There literally was no good reason, other than I had not taken the time.”
In retrospect, Audrey Kronick may have saved her daughter’s life.
Ralph realizes that now.
“It’s not very often you can say your parents saved my life, but in this case there is no question,” Ralph said.
At 44, Ralph admits she was four years late in getting a mammogram.
After taking the examination on Feb. 29, Ralph received a call the following day requesting her presence for an ultrasound. Clinicians immediately found something, prompting a needle biopsy on March 7.
A few days later, Ralph got a call. She had a fast-growing tumor. Surgeons at Valley Medical Center in Renton removed the lump on April 7.
“It’s obviously not something anybody wants to hear,” Ralph said. “It’s taken awhile for it to sink in. … It finally hit me when I went in for my first chemo treatment.”
Those rounds of chemotherapy began this month, a stretch of treatments that will take Ralph into the first week of July, when seven weeks of radiation treatments are scheduled to begin.
Undaunted by the energy-sapping treatments, Ralph intends to continue working for as long and as effectively as possible. She has her own business, a medical billing service, to run, along with her duties on the council and her obligations on various city committees.
There is also her campaign, which she launched earlier this year, a concentrated bid to win the mayoral seat in 2017. The day she announced her candidacy just happened to be the day she was told she had breast cancer. To avoid any conflict, she chose to keep the startling news to herself and family.
“I didn’t want the two things to be intertwined,” she said.
Now that she has gone public with her ordeal, Ralph has an important message to women her age: get a mammogram. She is using her platform to urge 40-something women to help themselves. Get tested, now. Prevention is key.
“I feel fortunate that we caught it early,” said Ralph, a mother of two boys, Kyle and Derek. “If I can convince one person (to get a mammogram), then that’s the reason, maybe that’s why all this is happening.”
Ralph estimates that as many as 20 of her friends have followed up and taken exams at her nudging.
When told of Ralph’s diagnosis, Councilmembers Bill Boyce and Dennis Higgins rendered the following statement:
“Of course, we were all very concerned. It is interesting that she admitted she had put off breast exams for a few years and that her mom finally convinced her to go to the doctor. Thank goodness she did. Now she is trying to help others avoid making the same mistake. Her example and openness will hopefully inspire people in our area to be aware of the need to get examinations. She is an inspiration. The entire council stands behind her through her recovery.”
The prognosis is very good for Ralph.
“We’re going to take it day-by-day and see how I feel,” she said. “For now, it’s good.”
Family and friends have given her inspiration.
“It’s been amazing. I have the best family … and across the entire community they have been wonderful and so supportive.”
Shawn Ralph knows his resilient wife will be back to full strength soon. Little slows her down.
“I’ve told her, ‘if somebody is going to beat this, it’s definitely you.'”