Jobs, genetics won't stop her from climbing

Posted: January 29, 2012 at 11:49 pm

On her last day as a public defender, Marybeth Dingledy didn't
talk about court cases.

She talked about an 18,491-foot volcano in Mexico. She talked
about seeing a climbing partner fall 100 feet during a descent
of Mount Baker, the first of many peaks Dingledy has scaled.

She talked about being dealt bad genetic cards, but taking
charge of her health as much as possible.

Oh, and there's that new job. She talked about that, too.

"I never thought it was my goal," Dingledy said Friday. "But my
dad reminded me at Thanksgiving that I had said, 'One day I'll
be a judge or a teacher.' "

After 16 years as an attorney with the Snohomish County Public
Defender Association, the 42-year-old Dingledy is scheduled to
be sworn in Feb. 7 as the county's newest Superior
Court judge. She was chosen by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier
this month to fill the seat held by Judge Ronald Castleberry,
who is retiring.

Over coffee Friday, Dingledy said people in Snohomish County's
legal community suggested in recent years that she put her name
in the running for the bench. The Superior Court will soon have
two new faces. Former Snohomish County Prosecutor Janice
Ellis was selected in December to fill the seat held by
Judge Kenneth Cowsert, who also retired.

Dingledy said she was struck by "a whole lot of emotions" when
she was appointed to the bench. "I was incredibly excited and
honored, but also sad to be leaving a great job," she said.

Because of her judicial duties, Dingledy put a personal goal on
hold. This coming summer, she had planned to climb Alaska's
Mount McKinley, also known as Denali. The trip
would have taken her away for three weeks.

That wasn't practical while settling into her judicial role.
Also, Dingledy said, she may be in a campaign this summer and
fall if someone files for election to her seat on the bench.

Still, she plans a two-day climb of Mount Rainier this summer.

A mountain climber since 2006, Dingledy has raised money for
the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center through the
Climb to Fight Breast Cancer. She climbed Mount Baker in
2006 and Rainier in 2007. In 2008, Dingledy went to Mexico to
climb two inactive volcanoes, the 18,491-foot Pico de Orizaba and the
smaller Iztaccihuatl.

She traveled to Tanzania in 2009 to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. In
2010, a dangerous turn in the weather kept her group from
making it to the top of California's Mount Shasta. Last summer,
Dingledy climbed Mount
Olympus on the Olympic Peninsula.

"I've raised over $60,000" for the Hutchinson center, she said.

Those fundraising days are over. Dingledy said that as a judge,
it isn't appropriate to raise money, even for a cause as noble
as fighting breast cancer. Others are welcome to donate to the
effort that remains close to her heart.

For Dingledy, the battle against breast cancer is personal.

In 2003, she learned she inherited an altered BRCA2 gene. That
means she has a much higher than average chance of getting
breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Her father's mother died of
breast cancer, and two of her father's sisters developed the

According to the National
Cancer Institute, a gene on chromosome 13 normally helps
suppress cell growth. With a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, there
is high risk of breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.

In October, Dingledy did something about it. Doctors had
recommended that her ovaries be removed by age 45. On Oct. 26,
she underwent a hysterectomy, which is removal of the uterus,
and removal of her ovaries.

The surgery, she said, cut her risk of breast cancer in half
and greatly reduced her risk of ovarian cancer. In a 2009
Herald interview, Dingledy said that without surgery she
would have at least an 80 percent lifetime risk of breast
cancer and a 20 percent chance of ovarian cancer.

"On the same day I scheduled the surgery, I signed up to climb
Denali," she said.

She won't get there this summer, but Dingledy is excited to
step up to the Superior Court.

As a public defender, she said, "I've become a really good
listener." She feels ready for the next step. Being a judge,
she said, requires listening, being respectful and
compassionate, figuring out the issues, and "trying to make
sure you are doing justice to everybody."

Denali can wait. Still, Dingledy isn't about to quit climbing,
even as her day job has her wearing a judge's robes.

She often trains by biking 16 miles to work from her Bothell
home, then taking a bus home. "I don't think any of the other
judges take a bike and the bus to work," she said.

Dingledy hasn't yet climbed up onto the bench, but she has
shown courage and fortitude climbing mountains and standing up
to health risks.

"I can't change my genes, but I'm not going to feel sorry for
myself," she said. "There's plenty to do."

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

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Jobs, genetics won't stop her from climbing

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