Edmonds City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas had a good reason to be absent from Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Five years after she lost nearly all of her right lung to cancer, she is in Hawaii, celebrating her official status as “cancer-free.”
Since undergoing surgery to remove the tumor in her lung in mid-September 2010, the two-term Edmonds City councilmember has undergone an array of regular CT scans, blood work and breathing tests — all with negative results. Her latest CT scan last month “is what qualified me for remission,” Fraley-Monillas said. “That means I have the same chance as anyone else of getting it [cancer] again.”
When she was diagnosed with stage 1b lung cancer, after coughing up blood during a July 2010 trip to Boston, she recalls being told she had “a 58 percent survivability rate beyond a year or two. Nationwide, on average, only 18 percent of people who have lung cancer live beyond five years,” she said.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Smokers or former smokers are at higher risk, as are those who have been exposed to second-hand smoke. Fraley-Monillas said she had smoked for 20 years, but had quit 10 years prior to her diagnosis.
Her only worry at the time was the future of her then-teenage son, Dominick Monillas, who has Down syndrome, and ensuring that he would be cared for if something happened to her. She underwent five months of chemotherapy that left her “feeling sicker than a dog,” but still managed to make it to most council meetings, with her husband Domie often giving her a ride to the downtown Edmonds council chambers from their Lake Ballinger neighborhood home.
“I felt like I owed it to the citizens who elected me,” she said. “They expected me to do my job.”