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RACINE — This Friday, Grace Church, 3626 Highway 31, is hosting a Relay For Life at 5 p.m. with guest speaker Amanda Lipke, who will offer a message of hope to its attendees. In particular, she wants to let people know that “there is life after that cancer diagnosis.”

Lipke, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2020, now lives cancer-free and continues to inspire loved ones, fellow survivors and anyone who hears her story.

Amanda’s cancer timeline

Oct. 28, 2020: “I did a self-exam at home. I found what I refused to call a lump at the time… But I told myself that if I still felt it the next morning I would call a doctor, make an appointment. The next morning, I still felt it, called the doctor, they got me in later that afternoon. She told me that she felt the same thing, she wanted to schedule a mammogram and an ultrasound as soon as we could get it done… They confirmed that they saw not only one spot, but a total of five spots in my right breast.”

Nov. 3, 2020: She receives a biopsy and has markers placed. “By the week’s end, I was confirmed that I had cancer.”

cancer survivor Lipke
Taken before her mammogram & ultimately the more detailed ultrasound, on November 2, 2020 — By the time the day was over, she knew her life would never be the same. – Credit: Amanda Lipke

Nov. 12, 2020: She receives an MRI and a PET scan. “My doctor said, ‘We can’t say it is cancer. We can’t say it’s not. What we can say is it’s a hot mess and you’re going to be in every six months to have mammograms and ultrasounds and all of this stuff to make sure that there is no cancer there.’ Without missing a beat, I opted for a double mastectomy right then and right there. I have never made a decision in my life that quick ever.”

Dec. 9, 2020: She receives her mastectomy and the beginning of breast reconstruction. “It ended up being almost a 12-hour procedure. My husband was able to see me in between surgery and going to my room for an hour while I was in recovery because, again, we were under COVID regulations, which I think just made me power through more and more to get out of the hospital quicker because I wanted to be with my family and my husband.”

A month after: She hiked a volcano in Hawaii, where she and her husband celebrated their 20th anniversary, as well as loved ones who were getting married in Hawaii. “I am still myself. I am still here. I’m still fighting. We’re not giving up.”

Feb. 11, 2021: She starts 20 weeks of chemotherapy, including four rounds of “Red Devil” chemotherapy and 16 weeks of TC chemotherapy. “I have since started an oral chemo, which is just a maintenance med that I’ll be on for two years, just to kind of keep the cancer at bay.”

Struggle to feel connections, community during COVID

cancer survivor Lipke
These photos were taken almost exactly one year apart (Oct. 2021, left, Oct. 2020, right). The one on the right was right after her official diagnosis. – Credit: Amanda Lipke

Due to the pandemic, Lipke experienced more heartache and loneliness than cancer patients before her. She stated that the most difficult parts of her process were moments that she could not be with her family in person.

During her first chemo appointment, her husband and “rock” Christopher was allowed in the doctor’s office, but not the infusion room. “The heartbreak for both of us was probably worse than the initial shock of having cancer and all of that because I knew he had to go off on his own and deal with what I was going through in his own way,” Lipke said. “And here I am going through this and not having him there.”

Lipke is grateful for the kindness and sense of community that the Aurora Racine Cancer Center nurses provided – in place of loved ones – during her time receiving treatment.

“Why is Relay For Life important to you?”

When given this question, Lipke answered, “It’s really important to me, because it’s one way I can give back to help find a cure; if not for me, for future generations, future potential patients.” She also commented that it means a lot to her “knowing that (ACS) have helped with some of this research, and knowing that they are really, really fighting to find a cure to this horrible disease that touches so many people.”

cancer survivor Lipke
Lipke and her husband boating after being cancer free. – Credit: Amanda Lipke

The history, mission of Relay For Life

An official Relay For Life poster states, “Founded by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Washington, in 1985, Relay For Life continues to be more than just an event — it’s a movement, a community of like-minded survivors, caregivers, volunteers and participants who believe that the future can be free from cancer.”

The event is a fundraiser for American Cancer Society (ACS), which provides people with access to screenings and offers a support network to patients, caregivers and survivors. Learn more about Relay For Life here.

In addition, Kohl’s has partnered with ACS to create Kohl’s Healthy Families, and they are sponsoring this Relay as well as four other Relays in Wisconsin this year.

“It’s incredible to have sponsors like Kohl’s who can help us get the word out and help sponsor Relay for Life and American Cancer Society, so that we can continue that additional research,” Lipke said.

To donate to Relay For Life of Racine, click here. To join the July 15 event, click here.

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