Never give up on the things you love.
That’s the message Amy Beth tells friends, family and co-workers after her intense battle with cancer.
Beth is an automated controls system manager at Denver Water. She was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in January 2017.
“No one’s ever prepared to hear the big ‘C’ word,” Beth said, reflecting on the past two years. “It’s a bit of an awakening when someone tells you, ‘You have cancer and it will kill you, so what are you going to do about it?’”
Beth’s diagnosis stemmed from an annual mammogram, when doctors found a 2-centimeter mass which turned out to be invasive ductile breast cancer. The news got worse during subsequent testing when doctors found a second case of the disease involving a different type of cancer — lobular breast cancer.
“Most women typically have one type of breast cancer, not two,” Beth said. “Those were tough times, but you find the strength to get through it.”
Beth had to figure out how to balance treatment with life, work, family and her role as a pipe-setter on Denver Water’s women’s pipe-tapping team.
“I love pipe-tapping,” Beth said. “It’s a great way to put your engineering and water skills to the test.”
Pipe-tapping is a friendly but serious competition in the water industry that simulates connecting a copper pipe from a water meter to a water main. It’s a competition that requires precision, strength and speed as winning times are typically under the 3-minute mark.
Beth, along with co-workers Julie Seagren and Afshan Andesha, had joined Denver Water’s women’s tapping team in 2014. They got help from the men’s team in learning how to tap and worked their way up to become one of the top women’s teams in the country.
But, Beth said, “when I found out I had cancer, I knew I’d have to take a break.”
With Beth sidelined by her battle with cancer, co-worker Audrey Wadley stepped in to help the team compete at the national championships in June 2017.
Beth continued working while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, adjusting her work duties to fit her treatment schedule.
“With Audrey helping the tapping team and my network and systems control teams pitching in on the job, it was inspiring to see all the support from my Denver Water family,” she said.
After an emotional year and six months of intense treatment, doctors declared Beth cancer free in December 2017.
Throughout her treatment, Beth was determined to get back to pipe-tapping and her teammates.
Her hard work paid off. In September 2018, Beth took part in the American Water Works Association’s regional competition in downtown Denver — her first pipe-tapping competition since the doctors gave her the all-clear.
“When there’s something you love doing, like pipe-tapping for me, cancer can’t take that away from you,” Beth said. “I’m here to tell you that just because you get cancer doesn’t mean your life is over.”
At the regionals, the team completed their tap in 2 minutes and 46 seconds, fast enough to qualify for the AWWA’s national championship competition in June 2019 that will be held in Denver.
“It was great to have Amy back out there with us,” said Julie Seagren, Beth’s co-worker and tapping team member. “One year ago, we were taking Amy to chemo, so the fact that she was able to battle back six months after going through what she did was really impressive.”
Beth’s mom — a breast cancer survivor herself — was at the competition to watch her daughter back in action.
“Amy was so strong throughout the treatment,” said Kathy Killberg, Amy’s mother. “We’re so proud of her. She has lots of love surrounding her.”
With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, Beth urges women to get their mammograms because early detection was critical to her own successful cancer treatment.
“Stay up on those mammograms and if you’re going through cancer now, don’t let the disease define you,” she said. “Respect cancer but know that there is a lot of help out there. You can beat it and move on with your life.”