On a cloudy day early in October, four eights swept across Lake Sammamish for a total distance of over 24,000 meters during a Saturday morning practice. This row was less of a practice and more of a dedicated amount of time to honor SRA member Trista Becker who had recently completed her final round of chemotherapy treatment during her battle against breast cancer.
I heard about Trista through Coach Lee Henderson and Coach Dennis Ferrer. They sent me photos from the Length of the Lake Row, the name of the honorary practice, and told me a bit about Trista's story. Amazed- I had to know more. I reached out to Trista to see if she would be comfortable sharing her story with me and she graciously made time to share while still recovering from her last round of chemotherapy.
The story begins just this past May when Becker was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not even yet 40 years old, Becker admits she was surprised to find out from her doctor about how common breast cancer is in the Seattle area. Becker hopes to encourage women (and men) of all ages to get checked for breast cancer by their doctors. She remembers being told by physicians that she was too young to need a mammogram.
Her treatment started just a week after masters regionals. Although her chemotherapy is over, Becker will still undergo surgery and radiation, but she says "stay tuned because I'll be back!". When asked about how she has been handling her diagnosis and treatment, she admits it has completely changed her life, but she sees it as only a temporary setback.
Upon further reflection, Becker is extremely grateful for the role that Sammamish Rowing Association has played in her life just these past months. She said that talking with other rowers who went through breast cancer or who had family members with breast cancer was helpful, but the most profound impact was the meal train set up by her fellow teammates. Her teammates kept her company, cooked her meals, and created thoughtful care packages for her all throughout her treatments. She has plenty of fuzzy socks, chocolate bars, and coloring books.
Becker also acknowledged her friend and fellow SRA member, Celine Suzzarini, who Becker says, "has been the best friend a girl could ask for in supporting me emotionally through this time." Suzzarini helped organize the meal train, came to every chemotherapy treatment with Becker, and also came to other appointments and surgeries. When talking about Suzzarini, Becker said, "if I had not met her and the other rowers at Sammamish, my husband and I would be going through this process mostly alone."
When talking more about Sammamish, Becker stated, "I am relatively new to where I live and made instant friends and a huge support group through the Sammamish community. My family lives far away so Sammamish has been like a family helping me battle cancer locally." Her teammates helped her know about hospitals and where to go as well as provided places to stay when she needed to travel longer distances to receive treatment.
Despite the whirlwind that has been her life the past few months, Becker still rows when she feels up to it. "I have been coming to practice during times in the cycle when I am feeling up for it. The stress relief of crew as an outlet and keeping my activity level up through rowing has helped me with the side effects of rowing." Becker has taken a break from races, but she did row in the Row for the Cure regatta with Celine Suzzarini. They won first place in the costume contest and their pink flamingo decorated double will be used on the website for next year's event!
Sammamish is more than just a rowing association. Our boathouse caries more than just boats and ergs. Our boathouse serves you- individuals with your own stories to tell. Trista Becker's story is just one of hundreds that perfectly illustrates what our organization is about. Thoughtful stewardship, team success, safety, and personal discovery are our values, but our members blend their own values in every day through their actions. Sammamish Rowing Association sends its full support out to Trista Becker and her family, and hopes to see her out on the water more often.
Please follow Trista's advice and get checked for breast cancer regularly. For more information about the Row for the Cure regatta you can visit their website at https://seattlerowforthecure.org.