by Marcia Hill Gossard ’99, ’04 Ph.D.
A gesture that is seemingly small can have a great impact. That’s how Phyllis Finley of Kenmore, Washington, felt when her dog “Red,” a golden retriever–chow mix, walked out of the oncologist’s office in Seattle wearing an “I’m a Cancer Survivor” scarf on the one year anniversary of her diagnosis.
Just seeing the word “survivor” was a much needed morale boost after months of treatments and it gave Phyllis and her husband, Mike, hope. Diagnosed with nasal cancer in 2004 at just 6 years old, the doctors told them that Red only had a few months to live. They immediately took her to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital for treatment. At WSU, Red, as Phyllis puts it, received “royal treatment” from her medical team, particularly Betsy Wheeler, an oncology veterinary technician, and Dr. Rance Sellon, a WSU oncologist.
Knowing she could never really repay Betsy and Dr. Sellon (who she says are the real heroes), she decided to pay it forward. She made 10 “I’m a Cancer Survivor” scarves and asked Dr. Sellon if his team could use them. He said yes, and now she sews an average of 250 scarves per year. After their final cancer treatment, Betsy ties a scarf around each patient’s neck. Clients are often deeply touched by the gesture. It has been eight years since she made the first scarf and they still give hope and brighten the day of people she will never meet.