Sarah Lien poses in front of ribbions at Alfy's Pizza in Granite Falls. Ribbons represent donations made in Lien's behalf.
It’s almost unimaginable, having a two-year-old and a five-year-old and finding out that your husband has brain cancer.
Sitting through doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy for hours and watching your spouse suffer, all while trying to raise two small children.
And after all of this, losing your husband to this disease.
This is what happened only 15 years ago to Granite Falls Alfy’s Pizza owner Sherri Pribble-Jones.
During this time, Pribble-Jones met Barb and Jim Hawkins, Lake Stevens residents for over 20 years.
Barb had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing treatment at the same time as Pribble-Jones’ husband.
Seeing her distress, the Hawkins invited her to dinner at their house. They became fast friends.
“That is when our friendship began,” Pribble-Jones explains. “They walked beside me in my journey as my husband passed and Barb was on the road to recovery.”
Last year Hawkins (Barb) was again diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Pribble-Jones took her to appointments and was beside her every step of the journey.
“I felt it was my opportunity to give back and be supportive since I was so overwhelmed when Barb had cancer 15 years ago. I felt like I wasn’t there for her, being a little overwhelmed with my two and five year old and sick husband,” she explained.
A week after Barb’s reconstructive surgery, Hawkins found out that her 24-year-old daughter, Sarah Lien, had a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. She had been married only two short years before.
“We thought this journey was done and then one week later Sarah found a lump,” Pribble-Jones said. “As you can imagine this is indescribable to even imagine a family can endure this.”
Because of the love and support that Pribble-Jones had received from the Hawkins family throughout not only her husband’s cancer but over the years since, she felt that she needed to give back.
“I have known Sarah since she was eight years old. I felt helpless and would wish this to be me before this beautiful young lady,” she explains. “All I can do is what I can do and that is trying to raise the awareness, help raise some money to offset their financial burden and be there for them. I certainly know what that is like.”
Lien can’t say enough about all that her friend Sherri has done in these tough times.
“Sherri and her family have been great friends in the best of times and now have shown their love for us in the toughest of times. From the moment I was diagnosed Sherri was on the phone calling doctors, fertility and cancer specialists, foundations and making plans for fundraisers,” Lien said. “It’s no mystery that cancer treatment is very costly and Sherri, her family and her staff at Alfy’s have been a pivotal part in raising the funds necessary for my treatment. Sherri’s attitude has never been this is what I have already done but always what more can we do. We are so grateful and blessed to have Sherri as our friend and would be lost without her.”
Lien found out just a few short months ago that she had cancer, but since then she has tried to stay positive and look forward to a future full of happiness.
“Well, it has only been since March that I learned that I had breast cancer yet it feels like I’ve lived years with cancer. You can have your future life wrapped up in a perfect red bow just waiting for you to experience perfection but somehow life gets untied and messy,” she explains. “I have a note by my front door that says happiness is a choice and I have to make that choice every day. I could have missed all God’s blessings and miracles that have happened by focusing in on the horrible road I am facing but instead I marvel at how many people have been touched by my story.”
Because of her affiliation with Alfy’s Pizza, Pribble-Jones has gotten all of the Alfy’s locations involved in raising funds and awareness for Lien.
“We did have one fundraiser for Sarah at our location on April 11 which raised $5,180. Then I spoke with the rest of the franchisees and asked them to join me in the efforts to raise money for her,” Pribble-Jones said.
Alfy’s Pizza locations all over Snohomish County have been selling ribbons since June 1 in support of Lien and to top off this three month event, on Wednesday, August 18, you can visit any Alfy’s Pizza location between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and purchase a large or extra large pizza at regular menu price and they will donate $5 to Sarah’s Hope, a collection of donations set-up to help Lien in her healthcare and financial needs.
The support so far, has been overwhelming.
In the donation jar at the Granite Falls store, there was an envelope one day which Pribble-Jones thought may be a card. She took it to Lien and when she opened it there were 10-$100 bills inside.
“No name, no card, just wrapped in plain paper. Isn’t that awesome? Thank you to who ever did that,” she said.
As of July, Lien is celebrating a clean CT scan, just days before her third wedding anniversary. She will continue with treatment in hopes that her future will be long and happy.
“The latest news from the doctors is that I have completed my chemotherapy treatment which consisted of six treatments of the most intense drugs there are. I have also recently had a CT scan that came back normal meaning that all my cancer sites are gone. My doctors are surprised with how well I have handled treatment so far and are very pleased with my progress,” Lien said. “I have only completed the first leg of my journey and I have many surgeries and radiation in my near future, however, my body has to recover from the chemo completely before it can take another big hit.”
Lien continues to fight the battle every day but tries to focus on her blessings and not her defeats.
“Cancer is trying to take everything from me, even my life, but I will not be defeated. The road that lies ahead of me will definitely not be easy but I still have tons of fight left in me,” she said.
Lien writes a blog about her experiences at www.sarahshope2010.blogspot.com.