City Councilmember Sue Blazak Battling Breast Cancer

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by Ralph Nichols

Many of us enjoy the promotional jingle for Emerald Downs: “Nobody’s gonna slow me down. Oh no, oh no, I gotta keep on moving….” But instead of horses, it easily could describe Burien City Councilmember Sue Blazak this summer.

Not long after filing for election to a second term on the city council in late May, Blazak discovered what every woman fears – a lump in her breast, found during a self-exam. She had a mastectomy on June 18. (“I won’t say which side,” she quips. “I think it’s more interesting for people to wonder.”)

While all tests since then indicate that she is now cancer free, Blazak will begin chemotherapy soon. This is standard medical procedure since, during surgery, it was discovered that cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She won’t have to undergo radiation treatment.

Learning that she had cancer “was a shock,” Blazak told the B-Town Blog recently. “I think that I had some other things going on that may have lowered my immune system. My odds might have gone up. And I turned 50 this year. But it was unexpected. I have no family history of this.”

Despite the stunning news, Blazak didn’t lapse into self-denial and promptly sought medical care. “I was due for a mammogram anyway. And I want to encourage other women to have mammograms and do self-examinations,” she stressed. “They caught (mine) early and I feel lucky.

“I discovered that I have a lot of company. It’s happening to a lot of women, and there’s a very good support system” for those with breast cancer.

Despite the physical challenges that lay ahead, Blazak was determined even before surgery not to let this slow her down. She was going to keep on going – to beat breast cancer, and to continue running for re-election.

And one of the first persons to express his sympathy and best wishes was former Councilman Jack Block Jr., who will run against Blazak in the only contested race in Burien this November.

“I want to let people know,” Blazak added, “that for the next few months I will not be able to keep up the pace that I did the last campaign. Fatigue (from both surgery and chemo) is a problem and I understand that. I need to recuperate and won’t have the same energy that I had four years ago.

“Other than fatigue, I’m feeling fine now. I’m doing some physical therapy and walking every day. And I’m taking no more pain pills. I’m clearheaded again. I’m thrilled!”

Current Burien's City Councilmembers pose for their official portrait. Sue Blazak is furthest on the right, seated.

While Blazak needs time for rest and rehabilitation now, “I won’t slow down in the long run,” she promises. “I am hoping to be, I expect to be back up by September. I’ll give myself couple of months to relax first. I have a lot of people volunteering to help me.”

During her recuperation, she plans to sit down with friends “and get better organized.” They will help her get campaign yard signs out, delegate other campaign chores, and plan for the last couple months of her bid for re-election. Already she’s received the endorsement of the Women’s Political Caucus.”

Blazak has a lot she still wants to accomplish as a councilwoman. Looking ahead, she said the impetus begun “with the planning and completing of projects in Town Square needs to keep going. Burien has an excellent reputation with planning and completing projects….

“Burien and South King County need to have a stronger voice with planning in our region. Seattle has size, Bellevue has money, and I feel strongly that we need to have a voice, to be at the table when decisions are made.

“We need to be more involved,” she continued, pointing to her experience on the South County Transportation Board and on the Transportation Policy Board of the Puget Sound Regional Council, “where I’ve strongly advocated for Burien and South King County…. That’s one of the things that I feel I do well.”

Blazak also wants to continue working for a bicycle/pedestrian transportation plan for Burien, which may include putting a proposed Transportation Benefits District on the ballot this fall to fund that plan (read more on the proposed TBD here).

In addition, she supports a proposed new Community/Senior Center for Burien, which is on hold because of the economy, and promotes Burien as a “wellness center” that would encourage both improved health care and the entry of students into the educational pipeline for good careers in health care.

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