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Rural Alaska

Alaska Native entrepreneur battles cancer

  • Author: Jill Burke
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published April 14, 2011

The Oregonian has a nice story on Isabella Blatchford, an Alaska Native business owner who in recent years has become a warrior in business, in culture, and in her fight against cancer. She is the founder of Sugpiaq Seafoods, which peddles wild Alaska salmon to the likes of famous chefs and restauranteers Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse. She is intent on helping save the language of her mother's people, the Sugpiaq, or Aleuts, of Kodiak. But she has also recently found herself in the midst of a battle she didn't choose: The fight to save her life from an aggressive form of late-stage breast cancer.

A Youtube video created to help Blatchford raise money swiftly for what appears to be a course of treatment she needs very soon, explains her plight. For two years doctors failed to detect that it was cancer that was making her feel tired and causing changes in her breast. When the diagnosis came, it was bad: a rare form of the disease that had progressed to an advanced stage. She chose to combine standard, Western medical treatment with alternative medicine.

Last month, though, Blatchford took a turn for the worse, is in increasing pain, and her doctors have said she must do something different right away. There is no time to wait, according to a fundraising blog and website set up by Blatchford's sister. According to the site, raising money is necessary because while Blatchford does have medical insurance, it did not reimburse, as it had at first suggested it would, diagnostic tests and treatments that Blatchford underwent and paid for herself.

According to the family's fundraising website, Blatchford hopes to travel out of the country to Mexico, on the recommendation of her oncologist, to get treatments that the United States is only starting to embrace, and which are only available through hard-to-access clinical trials. Her goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of April.

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)

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