Margery Godfrey was used to being her husband’s No. 1 supporter throughout his five battles with cancer. But in 2016, she found herself in need of his support as she fought lung cancer.
The Federal Way residents, who met in the 7th grade and rekindled their love after a chance meeting on a California freeway in 1978, have been together for nearly 42 years.
“We have both been on both sides of the cancer fight equation,” Patrick Godfrey said. “As a caregiver partner, there are different emotions and responsibilities and concerns than if you have it yourself.”
Patrick Godfrey is a five-time cancer survivor over the course of 20 years. His first battle began in 2002 with lung cancer, followed by two bouts of melanoma. He is currently in hormone therapy for fighting recurrent prostate cancer, and dealing with internal damage from radiation treatments from 10 years ago.
While he’s never lost his spirit, Patrick Godfrey has had aggressive surgery due to his lung cancer, forcing the removal of a lower lung lobe, a rib and all the lymph nodes of his right chest. The removal procedure of his melanoma, incisions spanning much wider than the actual spot, makes it so “it looks like you’ve been shot with a 15-caliber machine gun,” he said.
Four years ago, doctors found a large tumor on Margery Godfrey’s right lung. After undergoing treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Proton Therapy Center at UW Medical Center, along with three months of radiation and chemotherapy, she celebrated four years of being cancer-free in September 2020.
Proton therapy, which Margery Godfrey called her “Seal Team six,” is an advanced treatment that precisely targets tumors by depositing the greatest amount of radiation right into the tumor and then stops, according to the SCCA website, allowing patients to receive high doses to the tumor, with a minimal dose to nearby healthy tissue.
Margery Godfrey remembers when she began to lose her hair, her husband helped her shave her head.
“It is something we look back on and laugh about now,” she said. As she waited for her hair to grow back (which it has since), Marvin at the Hair Lounge in Federal Way set her up with wigs galore.
The couple is heavily involved in many capacities in the Federal Way community. Margery, serving on the Friends of the Hylebos board and volunteering with the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking; Patrick, who is 39 years sober, recently retired from serving as the chairman of the King County Behavioral Health organization, among many other leadership roles in the community.
Having known each other for 65 years, their support and love for one another is “visceral,” Margery Godfrey said. “Whatever one goes through, the other is there holding up the other end.”
The two have also become pillars of strength for friends going through health struggles.
When people have something of the health nature going wrong, many people call the Godfreys to vent about the very personal, very traumatic experiences.
“I think it’s because they know we have been through some things,” Patrick Godfrey said. “They will call us to get emotional support. These aren’t things that people share easily, yet it’s so helpful.”
When Patrick Godfrey shared that his wife was diagnosed with cancer, his counselor told him his only job was to keep his mouth shut, offer plenty of hugs and tell her that he understood how she feels, he recalled.
“That was challenging,” he said.”I had to learn some new ways of listening to her and giving her support.”
Seeing his wife take on the same vicious disease he knows all too well has given Patrick a renewed sense of her best qualities that outshine even the darkest of circumstances.
“I’ll call it empathy, but really, it’s deep love,” he said.
During treatment at the proton center, the Godfreys found themselves on a similar treatment schedule as two Iraqi women, one of whom was going through treatment with her sister taking the role as a caregiver. The sisters kept to themselves quietly in the corner, but one day mentioned they liked Margery’s knit slippers.
So Margery asked her friend to knit two more pairs and she delivered them to the sisters.
“They turned around and asked ‘why are you doing this?’ and Margery said ‘I have lung cancer. I noticed you’re in treatment too. We’re in this together.’”
From that moment forward, the women were “all smiles,” saying hello and asking about how each other’s treatments were going.
“That just blew me away,” Patrick Godfrey said. “That little bit, well lot of bit, of reaching out. I think it’s a gift.”
Margery said she owes much of her positive attitude to her faith, a belief in science available and looking forward to the hope of tomorrow.
“It’s not easy to go through this, or watching your husband, your loved one go through pain, but you have to have faith.”