For Paul Gray and Karen Bergsvik, each day was a gift.
In late 2007, Paul received a promotion at PACCAR and qualified for an executive physical as part of his health benefits. A colonoscopy found a small point of inflammation, which was biopsied. Just before Christmas, Paul and Karen got the news. Paul had cancer in his appendix.
They “celebrated” Christmas with their extended family, but were already thinking about and planning for his surgery.
Shortly after ringing in the New Year, Paul entered the hospital for surgery. Unfortunately, the cancer was too extensive, so his surgeon backed out of the surgery. And, his surgeon gave them more chilling news: there were no treatment options and Paul should expect to live only another three to six months.
Paul returned to work, preparing to reduce his schedule and eventually leave the company. When PACCAR’s CEO learned about Paul’s diagnosis, he gave Paul an unexpected lifeline — a recommendation to see Philip Gold, M.D., an oncologist at the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI). Paul immediately made an appointment with Dr. Gold, and for the first time he and Karen heard some positive news. Dr. Gold confirmed that Paul’s cancer was terminal, but he also told them there were treatment options.
After a year of treatment to reduce the size of the tumor, Dr. Gold referred Paul to a surgical oncologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center who specializes in appendix cancer. After a 12-hour surgery at Wake Forest and nine weeks of follow-up treatment and recovery at home, Dr. Gold told Paul he was in remission.
But the cancer returned. After another surgery and another period of remission, Dr. Gold discovered Paul’s cancer had come back a third time — this time on his bladder. Paul and Karen were reminded that even though years had gone by since his initial diagnosis, his cancer was, indeed, terminal.
Paul and Karen have always supported charitable organizations, but their desire to help others had new meaning and some urgency. They decided they wanted to give to Swedish — while Paul was alive. They wanted him to have the opportunity to choose how their gift would be used and see how it helped others. They started thinking about how they could make the greatest impact.
For four and a half years, Paul had received chemotherapy at Swedish. Every other week, he would spend eight hours in the treatment center at SCI. Although it was difficult at first, he and Karen quickly learned they had to accept help from his co-workers, neighbors and church friends, so Paul would always have someone with him during his chemo sessions.
Those were long days. They quickly discovered that the nurses provided remarkable care and compassion. They also noticed, however, that the 15-year-old center needed a face-lift.
Improving the treatment center became their passion. Paul and Karen worked with Swedish to put together a project team. Their goal was to create a warmer and more comfortable place to give, receive and support cancer care. In the end, they were able to support a top-to-bottom renovation. From fresh paint and artwork, to new equipment, ergonomic chairs and enhanced Wi-Fi — the renovation created a healing environment for the delivery of extraordinary cancer care.
“We wanted to acknowledge the incredible care I have received at Swedish,” says Paul. “I have experienced the cancer journey myself and understand what others are going through. I feel so fortunate that Karen and I have been able to make this gift and, most importantly, to see the project completed.”
Together, supporters like Paul, Karen, PACCAR — and you — make stories like Paul’s possible. To learn more about how your gift is making a difference in the lives of patients like Paul, contact Jeff Walker, senior director of philanthropy at Swedish Medical Center Foundation, at Jeff.Walker@swedish.org or 206-386-3194, or Lauren Moore, director of philanthropy, at Lauren.Moore@swedish.org or 206-386-3302.