She fought back tears, like so many times before. Cancer sucks. Only this time, she wasn't afraid of the looks of her shaved head or the "what if's" and uncertainties of a cancer diagnosis.
Instead, standing at center-ice, Tracy Brumley was smiling and waving along with her two loving daughters, her surgeon, and a friend. Under the glow of arena spotlights, the giant replay screen, and a public address announcer for thousands, there was Tracy, standing up to cancer. “We Love You Tracy” could be heard from adoring fans in the grandstands of the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena during “Puck Cancer” night.
For the past six-years, the Spokane Chiefs Hockey club and event sponsor Inland Imaging have dedicated one game night a year towards cancer victims, research, awareness, and survivors. In 2023, the Spokane Chiefs and its fans are standing up for Tracy, with camera phones lighting the arena by all those who cancer has unfortunately touched somehow. Unlike the cervical cancer that caused her hysterectomy nearly five years ago, this time Tracy, her husband Mike, and two daughters are facing an even bigger uphill climb. This time, it’s breast cancer. The diagnosis in late 2021 ruined Thanksgiving and Christmas.
All last year, Tracy battled the weekly doses of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and more than two-dozen radiation procedures. She and the family were forced to forfeit many “family fun nights”, hugging, even touching at times. Instead, there were counseling sessions and a lot of consoling. But thankfully, not on “Puck Night!” Like her focus during her military training serving in the U.S. Navy, Tracy learned to believe in the mission ahead and the people surrounding and guiding her through the cancer.
For the Chiefs game, Tracy chose to have her two daughters join her and the life-saving surgeon who didn’t “sugar coat” the diagnosis or what it would take to fight back. “We love her and are so very proud of our mom,” explained Jesse, her oldest daughter. Tracy adds, “my providers, and these girls have been so strong for me. I am extremely proud of them.”
“Tonight, is a way for every single person to see what cancer looks like on the other side of it,” explains Deb Barnes, Founder of “Every Woman Can” a local non-profit whose motto, “Let’s help and raise the spirit of cancer fighters” is motivating the Brumley’s and many more.
Every Woman Can is at the heart of the cancer fight, providing awareness and education about women’s cancers; encouraging their mindset and outlook as well as serves women experiencing cancer to learn to make healthy living choices a habit. Tracy and her cancer journey were nominated and selected for the recognition. “When you have cancer, every small win and every special moment are even more profound and meaningful,” said Barnes.
The Spokane Chiefs Hockey team recognized Tracy for being a Veteran, fighting cancer – and beating it again, thanks to early detection through a mammogram. Surgery, radiation, and support came her way through a team of physicians and staff supporting her at VA and the local community partner ensuring Veterans get the care they need near their homes. This community partnership ensured Veterans access to support of their family and friends while undergoing treatment versus traveling to another VA for cancer care elsewhere.
“Over the years our partnership with these local organizations helping VA, we have changed the playing field for Veterans seeking cancer care,” explained Julie Liss, RN, Women Veterans Health Program Manager at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. Each March, VA joins many in celebrating Women’s History Month. Tracy Brumley is a shining example of what can be accomplished with the right mindset, quality health care, coupled with modern technology, science, and a supportive medical community and family network. And don’t forget, she’s a decorated Navy Veteran. In addition to her military time, Tracy has also spent 17-years serving her fellow Veterans while working for VA. She knows how and when to embrace the moment.
As treatment began last year, her daughters shaved her head for her. Her friends and co-workers at VA all supported her during the cancer battle too. Chief’s fans at the game learned why Tracy is such an inspiration. Part of her military experience includes the distinction of being among the first of 200 women ever to forward deploy into an ongoing US Military conflict. She was an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate that directed aircraft on the USS Kittyhawk. During peacetime she had missions and ports of call throughout Southeast Asia before her duties led her to the Persian Gulf war zone and Operation Enduring Freedom during the War on Terror.
As a cancer survivor, Tracy continues her journey as the secretary for VA’s Police force at Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center. “I’m so grateful to work at VA and the reasonable accommodations they offer to staff when these very personal health challenges come into play. I like to be busy, and I would have gone ‘nuts’ without work. I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been so tremendous and helpful. You all have lifted me and my family up and I am extremely grateful.”
If she had a microphone while standing at center ice, Tracy would have shared some strong advice for anyone receiving a cancer diagnosis. “Get tested whether no one in your family had it before or not. Never be afraid to ask questions, not just from your doctors but others who have been through it before. They might have tips to help with side effects, food ideas, or simply a sounding board. You need support so don’t be afraid to ask for help. You cry when you cry and then you wipe your face and find the positive.” Tracy even shared an inspiring quote from Joanne Clancy, “be the kind of woman who, when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says, ‘Oh no! She’s up!’ I use it for everyday life and remind myself cancer can ‘kiss it.”