UCSB Campus Police Go PINK for Breast Cancer Awareness

Mar 12, 2019, 12:28 PM by Nicole Young


Cathy Farley UCSB Campus Police

In October, all 46 UC Santa Barbara police officers displayed special pink patches on their uniforms in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. The department participated with every UC campus in a collaborative effort between law enforcement and public safety agencies to bring attention to the fight against breast cancer. UC-Santa Barbara’s assistant police chief Cathy Farley, a cancer survivor herself, spearheaded the local project. “Cancer survivorship comes with a responsibility,” she explains. “I have a unique opportunity to bring greater awareness of how cancer impacts everyone.” Breast cancer is still the most common cancer found in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest research from the American Cancer Society shows one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Doctors at Sansum Clinic/Ridley-Tree Cancer Center diagnosed Cathy nearly 10 years ago with aggressive, metastatic stage 3 breast cancer but she’s beaten the odds and so far, is in complete remission. Her personal encounter inspired her to spread the word about the critical importance of early detection and regular exams. “It’s a constant wakeup call,” says the 55 year-old. “When I was diagnosed, I was not expected to survive. The fact that I have is a miracle, so there’s a lot that I have to be doing and sharing. It was really important to me to get that message out, to take care of yourself.”

Back in 2008, Cathy’s life revolved around her job as a UC Santa Barbara police captain and her busy family life in Lompoc with her husband, Paul, and their three teenagers. From her time as a high school and UC Santa Barbara track athlete to winning the Ms. Santa Barbara Body Building Competition in 1986, to coaching her children’s many sports teams, Cathy always committed herself to an active lifestyle. This made it extremely difficult to reconcile how she wound up with such a serious illness. “If it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone,” she admits.

After the shock of her initial cancer diagnosis, Cathy mentally prepared herself for an all-out fight against her illness. Oncologist Dr. Mark Abate and surgical oncologist Dr. Rosa Choi guided her through a modified radical mastectomy, three rounds of chemotherapy and then radiation. Dr. Choi’s confident, no-nonsense personality appealed to Cathy. “She is one strong, smart, tough lady,” the chief announces. “I am on a hugging basis with her now. I really put my trust in her hands.” Cathy had her reconstructive surgery after cancer care in Los Angeles because that procedure wasn’t available in Santa Barbara at the time. Dr. Choi advocated for it and the surgery is now available locally and performed by plastic surgeons.

Cathy appreciated the streamlined process she experienced; how welcoming the staff was to her family and how her medical team “pulled it all together” so she could focus on getting well. “Once it happened, I thought, I am not going to let this thing beat me,” Cathy recalls. “I do believe that a real positive attitude and listening and following the directions of my whole cancer treatment team was significant to my survival.”

UCSB Police Pink Patch

Over the years, Cathy relied on her Lompoc breast cancer survivor support group called “Save the Ta-Tas” for wisdom and strength. Never shy about sharing her own cancer story, she’s connected to many female colleagues who faced a similar fate and those relationships hold special meaning for her. Always a supporter and strong encourager of women in her field, over the years Cathy pushed to increase the number of female officers within the UCSB police force. She now nurtures those 10 women professionally and personally. Passionate about advocacy for women, she’s served on the campus sexual assault response team and often joins forces with her friend, Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow, with whom she attended the FBI’s National Academy for law enforcement leaders. “I feel this huge responsibility to the next generation, to encourage women. These young ladies are so fierce, so beautiful and smart,” she comments. The need to reach out to others is Cathy’s most important takeaway from her cancer experience and something she believes has enriched her life exponentially. “Cancer evens the playing field, reminds us of our sameness as human beings.”