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Story of a Breast Cancer Survivor – Lynn Chaloupek

Publication: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, TX 

Lynn Chaloupek is a Texas Oncology—Fort Worth 12th Avenue patient whose history with cancer dates back to 2001 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, followed by colon cancer in 2003, then breast cancer in 2009, which recently metastasized to her liver and arm. She has been receiving care at Texas Oncology since 2012.

Finding Joy, Creating the Beautiful

Lynn Chaloupek has spent the past 15 years of her life fighting for it. Fortunately, she has a strong support system and faith in God to guide her through three cancers and now another round. Diagnosed with her first cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, in 2001 at the age of 54, she admits she was overwhelmed and scared.

“Cancer is a scary word,” she said. “I didn’t want my children and grandchildren to be afraid.” Chaloupek lovingly refers to her four grandsons, Neil, Nathan, Caleb and Cody, as her “Joy Boys.”

“With each cancer, I have tried to make something beautiful,” she said. “I make baby quilts for my grandsons. There’s joy in creating something beautiful for my children and their children. Today, I’m grateful to create Cody’s quilt. It’s pure joy.”

Lynn has proved to be a very powerful woman who overcame three fights against cancer. Her weapons of choice are three-fold: laughter, faith in God and love of family. But there is one three-letter word that encapsulates the depth of Chaloupek’s spirit.

“Three big neon letters light up my dining area,” she shared. “J-O-Y.”

“When I turn on my ‘J-O-Y’ light, it makes me smile,” she said. “I love to laugh knowing God has a sense of humor.”

Loving Family and Supportive Employers

In 2003, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Then, in 2009, Chaloupek was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer after a routine mammogram. As part of that treatment, Chaloupek had a double mastectomy. Even though her family history for cancer is virtually non-existent, Chaloupek has embraced her journey with joy, humor, laughter, reinforced by a loving family and supportive employers.

“I explained to my children and grandchildren that I’m having it [cancer] all for everyone so you don’t have any,” she said.

After college, Chaloupek and her husband purchased a cattle and sheep farm where they raised their two children, Christy and Casey. She later moved to Tulsa, where, throughout her 15 years of living with cancer, Chaloupek worked full time in human resources, and, after moving to Fort Worth, she worked in administration for a women’s shelter.

She said every employer worked with her treatment schedule, including her most recent employer, a property management service, though she's been able to work very little.

“I’m surrounded by amazingly kind people who are so precious to me.”

Communicating with Care

After the mastectomy, Chaloupek’s insurance changed and she needed to find another provider for a routine follow-up doctor’s visit. Her sister-in-law, who also was diagnosed with breast cancer, recommended Texas Oncology. Chaloupek began seeing Texas Oncology Fort Worth—12th Avenue’s Medical Oncologist and Hematologist Chi Pham, M.D.

Chaloupek shared, “I believe God picked my doctors.”

Between exams, Chaloupek began to experience something she'd never felt before.

“Dr. Pham explained the cancer metastasized to my liver and arm,” Chaloupek recalled. “My arm was hurting so bad, I couldn’t even write with it. I knew there was something really wrong because it got worse. Dr. Pham told me the cancer was eating through my humerus, which is the arm bone that runs from the shoulder to your elbow.”

"This cancer is different. It's treatable, but not curable," Chaloupek said.

Chaloupek soon thereafter had surgery to repair her arm, and once again began chemotherapy, as well as radiation treatments.

“Dr. Pham was very direct with the information I needed to know,” she said. “I could ask her anything. She talks with my other doctors and I believe she really knows me. She never entered my room without first knowing my chart. I’ve learned that to know a patient, you have to know their history and communicate.”

Chaloupek said Texas Oncology’s radiation department is no different because they “communicate and know what’s going on.”

“My radiation oncologist, Dr. Kathleen Shide, is so good,” she said. “We connected immediately. It’s similar to talking to someone for the first time and they get it. She spent so much time with me and was so careful when setting my arm up for radiation. She was there for the whole thing.”

Chaloupek said she was especially touched when Dr. Shide hugged her and said, ‘I’m always going to be your doctor.”

“I appreciate the [Texas Oncology] nurses, too,” Chaloupek added. “I’ve even received calls on the weekends asking how I’m doing.”

“Between my doctors, my brothers, my children, grandchildren and my friends, I’m spoiled I tell ya,” she said. “I’m so loved that I don’t worry. Today, I’m alive and enjoying my family. I look at things differently now. So much good has come out of this experience. I appreciate things more than I used to [before cancer] and that’s a great thing.”

Click here to view the full story from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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