Off the Press
November 8, 2011
By Christina Lords
Lessons in life taught by Mrs. Tinnea
I can’t shake the joy in Katie Tinnea’s voice.
She’s just concluded another successful day with her class full of 6- and 7-year-old first-graders at Newcastle Elementary School.
She sounds bright — smart, yes, but more than that. It’s like she exudes happiness —sunshine, even — over the phone as I make my way through another damp, dreary Issaquah day at the office.
Katie tells me that aside from her self-described No. 1 job of being the best mother she can be to her 14-month-old daughter Kennedy and loving wife to her husband Ryan, the 29-year-old Sammamish resident and Newcastle teacher is living with stage IV colon cancer — the most advanced form of the disease.
Stage IV means her colon cancer has been carried through her lymph system to distant parts of her body, including additional tumors in her liver and spots on her lungs.
Stage IV means she’ll be on routine maintenance chemotherapy, a treatment once every other week, for the rest of her life.
The Issaquah School District has supported her throughout her diagnosis, providing a designated substitute for her class the four days a month that she’s receiving her chemotherapy treatments. Her students and Newcastle Elementary colleagues wear purple, her favorite color, during those days to show their support for Mrs. Tinnea.
When I ask her about how she maintains so much positive energy despite all that she faces, she never hesitates.
“My doctor is very encouraging and has given me no reason to think of anything but the best,” she told me. “I feel great and like my normal self. Why would I mope around and be negative?”
More than that, she never wants anyone else to have to face this disease. She never wants any family to go through what her family has.
As someone who is regularly the youngest person who receives chemo treatments at her medical facility, she’s already doing her part to combat cancer.
She urges early detection by sitting down and talking as a family about medical history and encourages regular cancer screenings.
Kennedy’s child care provider, Bright Horizons of Issaquah, was inspired to start a team in Katie’s honor for the Nov. 6 Get Your Rear In Gear 5K event, which raises awareness and funding to combat the disease. It’ll be Katie’s first-ever 5K run to support the cause.
Katie doesn’t know it, but three weeks after our interview, she’s inspired me, too. I think about our conversation nearly every day.
Every time I find myself feeling down about a situation or problem, I think about Katie’s optimism and the power of positive thought. Her smile is infectious; her outlook on life is nothing short of remarkable.
She’s a woman not only dealing with the everyday stresses of being a teacher, a mother, a wife — things we all face — but she’s a woman living a life full of joy, hope and faith in defiance of a disease with no cure.
All she wants out of life is life itself.
That’s a lesson we can all learn.
Christina Lords: 392-6434, ext. 239, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.