In September 2008, Lynn Pipkin was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. A healthy and lively woman at the age of 57, Lynn was an avid swimmer and working at her family’s business, Tascosa Office Machines. When she was informed of her condition, Lynn immediately called her husband of 20 years, Kyle, to pass along the startling news. Upon arriving home, Lynn discovered Kyle doing laundry, quickly detecting his distress. Before the couple could sit down and discuss how to proceed, Kyle darted outside to their backyard.
“It was kind of surreal at first,” recalls Kyle, who lost his mother to lung cancer six years prior. “I was kind of shocked and I think the first thing I did was went and got on the lawnmower. And I ran it into a tree when I was mowing the backyard,” he laughs.
When Kyle came back inside, Lynn sweetly inquired, “Did you hear what I told you?” Of course, he had heard every word.
“You’re just scared at first,” Kyle says. “Just absolutely scared to death thinking you might lose somebody that you really love. That’s what I thought. It’s the worst thing that could happen. Then probably a day or two later I’m thinking, I just gotta be behind her…” he pauses.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Lynn finishes, grasping her husband’s hand as he takes a breath. “For caregivers, I think it’s almost in a way harder for them because all of a sudden you go into battle mode. But for them, I feel they kind of feel helpless. All of a sudden you’re just, ‘What can I do?’ I think sometimes it’s harder for the caregiver.”
Jumping back into the conversation, Kyle strongly disagrees with Lynn’s theory. “Well, no, no, no, no. It’s not harder because I’ve talked to other guys who went through the same thing with their wife and it’s almost like they feel like a victim... No. I felt like I needed to stay behind her and support her and not make it about me because it wasn’t.”
All the while Lynn was battling breast cancer, people would approach Kyle and inquire about his well- being, a common gesture that vexed him.
“I still get tired of people [asking], ‘How are you holding up?’” he candidly confesses. “People always say, ‘It must be so hard on you too.’ I never bought into that because yeah, it’s hard on anyone who’s fighting for someone they love and being in their corner but I’m not the one going through it. I’m not the one scared to death that it’s going to come back.”
With Lynn’s upbeat mindset, dynamic attitude and optimism permeating the air, Kyle felt it was his duty as a husband to follow her lead and adapt to the situation as she had. While undergoing surgeries in Houston, Lynn’s surgeon gave her three $20 Monopoly bills and told her, ‘You have three chances to feel sorry for yourself.’ Kyle only collected two.
“From my standpoint, I didn’t dare sit around feeling sorry for myself. Her attitude was so positive I would have been ashamed to go, ‘Poor me.’ If she can handle this I’m going to be right there in her corner,” Kyle declares.
Throughout Lynn’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery Kyle has firmly stood by Lynn’s side. He scheduled vacations from his job to stay with her in Houston, traveling back and forth. He managed her surgical drains and pushed her around in a wheelchair. However, these undertakings were not spousal obligations or chores, but were rather acts of love that didn’t faze Kyle one bit.
“It wasn’t bad at all,” Kyle nonchalantly describes. “I was at a point where I thought, ‘If I can help…’” he trails off as Lynn affectionately pats his hand, staring at him endearingly.
After a year’s worth of chemotherapy, rounds of radiation, treatment for Her2 (Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2), a double mastectomy and developing lymphedema, Lynn remained strong. It wasn’t until six weeks after her reconstructive surgery when she lost one of her implants that Lynn’s resilience wavered, but Kyle was there to perk her back up again. For Kyle, Lynn losing her hair and breasts was trivial. He was solely concerned with losing his life partner.
“She was devastated,” Kyle says. “She said, ‘Well, you know, I think I feel like less of a woman.’ She’s told me that. I’ve told her I’m not a spring chicken either so let’s not worry about that,” they both chuckle. “When she decided not to go back for [another surgery], I was really, really glad. I don’t see her for having large breasts… it’s having her around.”
This December, Lynn will celebrate three years of living cancer free. While they celebrate Lynn’s victory every day, the couple cannot help but fear a relapse. “There’s never a day or a point we said, ‘OK, she beat it. That’s it,’” Kyle says.
However, they continue to take each day as it comes and are thankful for their friends, family and coworkers who walked down this road with them. During the summer of 2010, Lynn and Kyle’s family took an Alaskan cruise, a trip that had been postponed as a result of Lynn’s diagnosis. On this vacation, every member of the family on the cruise surprised Lynn with charms for her bracelet, representing their love for her and the battle she fought and conquered.
“I’ve really been so fortunate in such a different way,” Lynn says as sways her left wrist back and forth, showing off her silver charm bracelet. “I think that’s really what cancer, to me, has taught us more than anything is to look deeper and really stop and look at what you’ve got and enjoy that every moment.”
“I feel like I’ve been very fortunate she’s had so many other people in her life that have been helpful to her,” Kyle adds.
Lynn remains active in her breast cancer support group, Dudes N’ Divas, at Texas Oncology-Amarillo Cancer Center and the American Cancer Society’s program, Reach to Recovery, as well as volunteering with cancer patients. Rather than seeing Lynn’s breast cancer as a misfortune or tragedy, Kyle appreciates what this trial has taught him.
“If there’s any positive about going through something like this, I think it makes you appreciate what you have,” Kyle opines. “Wouldn’t you say that?” Kyle looks to the woman he calls his best friend. “We actually, I think, grew closer together through all of this because it made me realize you’re here one day, you’re gone the next… It does make you realize that nothing’s forever and she’s been such an inspiration. It’s helped me realize there’s so many more important things. Every day’s just a little more precious.”
by Drew Belle Zerby
After graduating from LSU in 2009, Drew Belle worked as a page designer in north Louisiana until moving to Amarillo and joining AGN Media in late 2010. In her spare time, she loves to read, travel and spout out useless movie trivia.