Barista Carrie Webster Speaks With Us About Her Recovery From Breast Cancer
Back in 2012, Joe NYC
assistant manager and longtime specialty coffee person Carrie Webster found out she had breast cancer. Her colleagues at Joe New York and friends back in Portland created fundraising events under the banner of “Baristas For Boobs” to help her pay for costly medical bills. We caught up with Carrie a year later to find out how’s she’s doing – and to learn about what’s next for B4B, including a chance for the public to help raise funds for an American Cancer Society event this October in Central Park.
There was a huge B4B event in NYC at Joe Coffee last April – talk to us about what that night was like.
Yeah, that was the first of three fundraisers, thrown together by Matt Banbury and Lee Harrison. There was a second one later that summer in NYC. And a third one back in Portland near Halloween, that my old roommate and close friends Rita Kaminsky and Daniel Gunter put together. It was actually just supposed to be a big party. But, before I knew it, everyone had turned it into a fundraiser for me. I think we raised $3000 that first night.
Everything was still very new. I was just diagnosed on March 26. I remember thinking how amazing this “event” was and how I was fortunate to be a part of such a great community.
Where are you at now? How are you doing? Remission? Can you talk to us about any of that stuff?
Well, its basically over…I’m done with all treatments, chemo, radiation, etc. And now just have to wait for reconstructive surgery next year. The cancer was all removed last November. I’m doing great these days. My energy level and strength are getting better with everyday. I’m getting back in the swing of things, life, work, etc.
I don’t mind talking about this stuff at all. But, I don’t want to sound too graphic. I started with the first 12 weeks of chemo. I went in once a week, and still worked 5 days a week. But, in September was the worst chemo session. But that round of chemo was terrible. All of the bad things you think about when you think of chemo happened. I got so sick that I got an infection and lost my voice for three weeks, and then needed a blood transfusion. Jesus! By November, I was feeling much better though. Right before Christmas, I had a double mastectomy. In January, I started radiation. I went in everyday after my opening shift. That ended in March. I’m just waiting to have my reconstruction surgery. But that’s not till next year. And here we are.
How does it all feel a year later?
One and half years later, and it’s all just a really bad dream. I’m not going to lie, it was tough. There were some days you just wanted to cry, for no real reason either. Though I have some awesome people in my life that helped me through this, I also felt very alone and isolated during this thing. And after awhile, it gets hard to just keep having people say, “Oh you’re strong, keep positive thoughts.” Some days it’s very negative. Having my family far away was the hardest thing. My mom and my sister came out during my surgery and to help me move around after. You know those days when you were a kid, you just wanted your mom to put a Band-Aid on it and make it all better. I had a lot of those days.
But, now, I feel much better physically and emotionally. It really does put perspective on things though, on life in general (as cheesy as that sounds). It’s crazy though. I honestly feel like one of the lucky ones. Through all of my friends at work, three of them have lost someone this year to cancer.
Did you have health insurance throughout your treatment? Were your medical expenses completely out of pocket?
I did indeed have health insurance, through my job at Joe. My records show that I paid out of pocket about $1000 for all the tests once I was diagnosed (mammograms, ultrasounds, pet scan, mri, etc.), $3000 total for chemo, $850 for the mastectomy and $2500 for radiation treatment. Sounds like a lot…and it is. Out of curiosity I calculated how much the mastectomy would be without insurance, and it was something like $81,000. And that’s not including the rest of treatment either.
Talk to us about this upcoming event in Central Park – who is on your team? How can people get involved?
So far, it’s just a few of my closer friends from work who’ve signed up. I get a lot of people saying oh yeah, “I’d love to,” but I haven’t seen too much action yet. A lot of these folks have been amazing throughout this whole ordeal. They set up a meal drive for me during chemo. They would deliver meals to me for the weeks that I wasn’t feeling too well. To get connected, just go to this website, and once there, you can either join the team or donate money. Our team name is Baristas For Boobs.
Learn more about Making Strides of Central Park.