10/18 UPDATE: Ellen Boyd, who was diagnosed with a rare ovarian germ cell cancer close to 10 months ago, has been put on hospice. Doctors have estimated she has one to two weeks to live. The city of Buckley fundraiser has been put on hold, but currently, the YouCaring crowdfunding site and the Columbia benefit fund under Boyd’s name is remains active at this time. Julie Bevaart, one of the organizers of the city fundraiser, said the city will talk to the family about continuing to hold the fundraiser to help cover other costs, like hospice care, funeral or Ellen’s children’s education.
For the last decade, Ellen Boyd has been taking care the city of Buckley.
As its director of the youth center, senior center and parks department, Ellen had a helping hand in all areas of the city. She wrote grants for the city’s youth and senior programs, started the process for constructing the city’s new skate park and put together Buckley’s popular summer concert series, among countless other achievements behind the scenes.
So when Ellen was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian germ cell cancer, her friends decided it was time the community she dedicated her life to should come out and support her.
Ellen was diagnosed after she was admitted to the emergency room in January with severe stomach pains and internal bleeding. During an emergency surgery, they removed 10 pounds of fluid and a large, ruptured tumor.
A few days later, she got the bad news — the tumor was malignant.
During a second surgery, doctors found the cancer had already metastasized and spread around her body.
“It’s been difficult to determine in various pathologies what type of cancer it is, because as it’s grown into different types of organs, it’s developed different kinds of cancers,” Ellen said. “There’s multiple different types of cancers that they’re trying to treat for.”
But even after five rounds of chemotherapy and a third surgery, a CT scan revealed the chemo had little effect on the cancer growth. Ellen began a second chemo treatment, but soon stopped after doctors said the treatment was just as ineffective as the first.
Out of options, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance recommended a new treatment, but Ellen said they don’t know if it will be effective.
“Because this kind of cancer is so rare, there are few case studies to compare it with. So what they’ve used for the majority of, if not all of my treatment, is comparing it to testicular cancer and how it’s treated, because of how similar they are,” Ellen said. “As far as germ cell tumors in women, there’s essentially no case study trials they have to compare it to.”
The treatment would involve doctors removing stem cells from her bone marrow while she receives a high dose of chemo.
“The high-dose chemotherapy is what would kill the cancer off,” Ellen said. “But they have to take the stem cells out because the high-dose chemo would kill off all of those stem cells, which would essentially eliminate my immune system and any ability to fight things off.”
The stem cells would then be given back to Ellen (this is called an auto stem cell transplant) to help her immune system.
The cost of this treatment is high — close to $850,000. Unfortunately for Ellen, the lack of a case study for her cancer means her insurance denied her coverage.
“We sat down with my parents last night and figured out if we were to sell this house, move in with our parents, deplete our retirement and what we can of my parent’s retirement, that we would still be approximately $400,000 short,” Ellen said. “We’re kind of just hoping for a miracle.”
The miracle may come at the hands of her friends Michelle Rufener and Julie Bevaart, who put together a YouCaring crowdfunding site for Ellen.
As of Monday, Oct. 16, the site has raised more than $116,000.
A benefits account (Benefit of Ellen Boyd Support) has also been set up at Columbia Bank for folks who don’t want YouCaring to charge a 2.9 percent fee for their donation.
Additionally, a city-sponsored fundraiser is planned for Friday, Nov. 3 at Swiss Park in Bonney Lake. A time and ticket prices have yet to be determined, but the city of Buckley has released a “Save the Date” for the event. More information will be released on the city of Buckley Facebook in the future.
The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance won’t start Ellen’s treatment until they have the money upfront, Ellen said, but raising enough money is only half the battle — the treatment she would undergo has a 45 percent survival rate.
“For me, I try to stay sane by reminding myself that nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow,” Ellen said. “My journey is maybe less ideal, but nobody is guaranteed a tomorrow… if that’s the best odds they can give, then I’ll take it.”
Despite having cancer for over 10 months, Ellen only stopped working for Buckley a couple of months ago. The news hit her coworkers hard.
“It was a pretty sad day for all of us,” said Bevaart, the interim director taking over Ellen’s former position. “She’s one of the most beloved people I have ever met. It goes beyond city boundaries — she is loved on the Plateau.”
Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson said she was amazed at how much support Ellen has received.
“This is such a great and generous community, that when somebody is down and out, people really just step up to the plate,” Johnson said. “Ellen is one of the most gracious people I’ve ever met. Even on the darkest days, she always had a smile on her face. How can someone like this have to carry this additional burden? You ask yourself why.”
Ellen herself has been struck by the outpouring of support.
“I’m not used to being in the position where I need help,” she said. “It’s very humbling.”
Donations can be made on YouCaring at https://www.youcaring.com/ellenwinifredboyd-970363.