OCOEE Ocoee Police Officer Trista Blake is a private person, so it wasn’t easy for her to share the news of her breast cancer diagnosis with her co-workers. This place is more of a second home to her, though, and she discovered it was like opening up to members of her family.
Blake has been an Ocoee officer for five years, but she has been involved with the city’s police department since she joined the Police Explorers post at age 14. Several of the Explorers and supervisors are now her co-workers.
Two tumors were discovered in her right breast July 21, and two days later, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Furthermore, she tested positive for BRCA2, a gene mutation that had put her at a high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Her ovaries and breasts would need to be removed, she said.
Married to a former Ocoee police officer, Richard Blake, for six years and trying to get pregnant for four, Trista Blake often had dreams that she would have a curly-haired baby with blue or green eyes. She went to a fertility specialist prior to starting chemotherapy treatments in hopes of freezing some eggs. One embryo — a boy — was saved and is waiting on ice, she said, until her body is ready to withstand a pregnancy. If she ends up losing her uterus too, her best friend has said she will carry the baby for her.
A NEW PATH
Last month, Blake, 32, had a lumpectomy. She began chemo. She lost her hair.
Every 21 days, the Lake County resident and 2002 West Orange High School graduate has another round of chemotherapy. In January 2016, she will begin monthly treatments until July. She sits for two, sometimes three, hours at a time, but a few fellow officers join her and share laughter and chocolate.
“I’ve been supported a lot,” Blake said. “I’m kind of a private person, and it’s hard to accept help, but I’ve learned to, because they love me. I know that.”
She hasn’t lost much work time, but she was taken off road duty and placed at a desk because her bulletproof vest was pressing against her healing chest.
Blake said she misses patrolling her district, the area near Walmart and along South Maguire Road. She is so established in her zone that she knows where cars are normally parked, who walks their dog at night, who typically keeps the garage door open — if anything is out of the ordinary, Blake will know.
“I love my community,” Blake said. “All I wanted to do was to serve here, and I wanted to be on the road. And I was able to do that.”
She wasn’t ready to give up walking her beat and seeing the children; she doesn’t like that she had to alter the routine of checking on an 84-year-old resident — one she now considers a friend and frequent dinner companion.
And she’s upset that her solid game plan for life has been disrupted.
“How the hell do I do this now?” she asks. “That was the hardest part; the plan had changed.”
No more boxing, tennis, lifting weights and other activities she enjoyed. But she is learning to enjoy what she is able to do, such as cardiovascular workouts and walking.
SHOW OF SUPPORT
The police department and friends have organized fundraisers to help with the Blake family’s mounting medical bills. One was held recently at Frank’s Place in Ocoee, and several bingo nights are being held at the Winter Garden Elks Lodge 2165. The OPD is selling $20 pink T-shirts with the phrase, “Our strength is their hope,” and they can be purchased by calling Sgt. Mireya Iannuzzi at (407) 554-7197.
Donations also can be made at gofundme.com/pf5wxbg2. Following 12 months of chemo, Blake will have both of her breasts removed and then undergo reconstructive surgery.
And through this entire ordeal, Blake is keeping her thoughts on the healthy baby boy she one day expects to have. Lake Tech Police Academy, where Blake trained, already has raised $9,000 toward expenses related to carrying and delivering the Blakes’ first child.
“I think it’s amazing,” Blake said of the support she has received. “When you think about it, you want to cry.”
Ocoee Police Det. Michelle Grogan, who was Blake’s Explorer adviser, said as females, it’s easier to show a sensitive side.
“But the rough-and-tumble guys are asking how she is, does she need money?” she said. “And then they punch her in the arm on the way out.”