Still Mrs. Tinnea

November 3, 2011

By Christina Lords

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Newcastle Elementary School teacher receives good news after cancer diagnosis

In late September, Katie Tinnea’s oncologist broke a rule he’s held strong to for 20 years.

Instead of waiting to tell Tinnea — a 29-year-old Newcastle Elementary School first-grade teacher diagnosed in late July with stage four colon cancer — the latest news in person, he placed a call.

Her latest scan was in, and it showed something amazing.

Katie Tinnea (right), a first-grade teacher at Newcastle Elementary School, enjoys some family time with husband Ryan and daughter Kennedy, 14 months. By Carly Bish, of Carly Bish Photography

Every one of her tumors, which include growths in her liver, colon and spots on her lungs, were shrinking.

Tinnea said when she was first diagnosed in July, one of her tumors was as large as a tennis ball. By the end of September, that same tumor was down to the size of a golf ball.

Because traces of the disease can be found in Tinnea’s blood, those cells could connect to an organ to form a new tumor at any time. She’ll be on routine maintenance chemo, or once every other week, for the rest of her life.

“My doctor is very encouraging and has given me no reason to think of anything but the best,” she said. “I feel great and like my normal self. Why would I mope around and be negative?”

As one of the youngest people receiving chemotherapy treatments at her medical center, she has quickly become an advocate of early detection and finding a cure for the disease.

“My family and I were completely blindsided, and I don’t ever wish that on anybody,” Tinnea said. “My mother was with me at the hospital, and I had to come home to tell my husband I have stage four cancer. I didn’t have symptoms — even today I feel totally fine. I want people to know that unfortunately colon cancer is one of those sneakier diseases that can creep up on you at any time.”

She’ll participate in her first-ever 5K to take a stand against the disease after her 14-month-old daughter’s child care center, Bright Horizons in Issaquah, formed a team to show their support.

The Get Your Rear in Gear event is Nov. 6 in Bothell.

The team is one example of countless acts of kindness, prayers and good thoughts sent her way, Tinnea said.

Every other Thursday, she goes in for her chemo treatment.

But she doesn’t call them chemo days. Instead, family, friends, people in the community, and especially her students and fellow Newcastle Elementary staff, show their support for “Purple Power Day” — where people wear purple bracelets and other purple clothing as a reminder to send good thoughts Tinnea’s way as she goes in for treatment.

People ask Tinnea why she’s still working.

She has a question for them — why not?

“Teaching is who I am, and I can’t imagine just not doing it because of this,” she said. “I feel great. I still feel like Mrs. Tinnea. The children have been so supportive. They just know I’m sick on the inside, but I haven’t used the word cancer with them.”

The class has a designated substitute that steps in for those two days when she is away, she said.

“This cancer is not who I am,” she said. “Yes, it affects me every other week, but I’m so grateful my school district has been so wonderful to allow me to be out those two days.”

Tinnea encourages anyone who has a history of cancer in his or her family to talk about early detection.

Tinnea’s aunt was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 43 and died from the disease.

For colon cancer, family members should be screened for the disease 10 years before their relative’s diagnoses age, Tinnea said.

“Almost every day someone comes to me to say they’ve added me to a prayer chain or their friend has added me,” she said. “People share my Caring Bridge site with their friends, and their friends share it with their friends … the support I’ve seen has meant the world to me.”

Get involved

Join Katie Tinnea’s Kickin’ the Stick out of Colon Cancer Team at the Get Your Rear in Gear 5K.

  •  Date: Nov. 6
  •  Registration: 7 a.m.
  • 5k run: 8:30 a.m.
  • 5K walk: 8:35 a.m.
  • Kids Dash: 9:30 a.m.
  •  Location: Brooks Sports Inc., 19910 North Creek Parkway, Bothell

Registration fee: survivors — free, adults — $40, children (12 and younger) — $15

  •  Learn more about Tinnea’s story at www.caringbridge.org/visit/katietinnea.
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Comments

3 Responses to “Still Mrs. Tinnea”

  1. Inspiration for a Seattle team featured in Newcastle News | Get Your Rear In Gear Blog on November 4th, 2011 12:42 pm

    […] Kickin’ the Stick out of Colon Cancer created in honor  of Katie Tinnea was featured in the Newcastle News in advance of the Seattle Area Get Your Rear in Gear race.  The Seattle Area event is being held […]

  2. Behind the statistics are men and women who have fought — and continue to … | Cure for Liver Cancer on November 13th, 2011 8:02 am

    […] Still Mrs. Tinnea “My mother was with me at the hospital, and I had to come home to tell my husband I have stage four cancer. I didn't have symptoms — even today I feel totally fine. I want people to know that unfortunately colon cancer is one of those sneakier … Read more on Newcastle News […]

  3. Beloved Newcastle teacher passes away : Newcastle News – News , Sports, Classifieds in Newcastle, WA on April 5th, 2013 11:15 am

    […] Elementary School announced today that beloved teacher Katie Tinnea has passed […]

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