Photo source: The Virginian-Pilot
Battling cancer is just that - a battle. To make it through once is an incredible feat, but one Virginia Beach woman survived the terrible condition three times. Now, she is starting a support group so other women can have the incredible outcome she had as well.
Unfortunately, most people who battle cancer multiple times do not have a miraculous happy ending; however, Lynne Steeper was able to survive. Now that she has come out of her struggles, she wants to spread her hope and positivity to others who are fighting with cancer. She is using her own story to spread power and love to others.
Lynne first began to notice abnormalities when she had what seemed like a normal cough, but after taking three rounds of antibiotics and experiencing no improvement, she realized that something was probably wrong. She went to have a chest X-ray taken, and multiple tumors were discovered in her chest. After this revelation, she had a biopsy done and received a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Despite her devastation, she was brave and strong throughout her eighteen months of chemotherapy, and it her cancer went into remission.
However, eighteen months later a new scan revealed that the tumors has resurfaced in multiple sections. In response, Streeper and her doctors opted for a stem cell transplant, which fortunately was successful.
Lynne was overwhelmed with joy at her cancer going into remission at the five-year mark, which is considered a major milestone, but unfortunately while she was in the process of preparing for a major celebration, the cancer came back. What was even worse was that it was Stage IV.
In response, Lynne underwent even further chemotherapy and an additional stem cell transplant. Now, she is in her third remission.
So, how did she make it through these tremendous challenges multiple times? She says that keeping a positive attitude is crucial, and also knows that her husband was an integral element of support throughout her trials.
She explains further, "John told me only a few weeks ago that I had a 30 percent chance of survival. He had decided not to tell me when I was in the hospital, because he couldn't be sure if the news would dampen my spirit or make me fight harder."
While it is likely that she would have fought harder, given her preexisting strength, he knew the importance of how her attitude would impact the success of treatment. Now, she has even more reason to be strong, as she has recently become a grandmother and is about to celebrate her third year in remission.
Starting a support group
Lynne explained some of the hardest parts of her journey with cancer that instilled in her a desire to start a support group for others, "the treatments were very rough, and it was always hard to see an empty chair where a fellow transplant patient sat the day before. I've lost too many friends over the years, so I'm determined to give back. I hope my support group can inspire people, establish friendships and provide hope. I know how valuable that can be."
This unbelievable showing of giving back is an inspiration to many others who have gone through cancer, and is leading many to give back in similar ways. So not only has Lynne volunteered for six cancer organizations, started her own lymphoma support group in Virginia Beach, but she has sparked others to follow in her footsteps as well.
The first meeting of her support group was at the Health Education Center on the Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital campus at 7 p.m. on September 12th, and she encourages both current and former patients to take part in the group, as well as caregivers.
She explains why she believes people will benefit from her support group, "I expect the group to offer hope, information and support to patients and their caregivers. I have met many friends in lymphoma support groups over the years."
She considers her own theme song to her life to be "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor and she wants everyone in her new support group to start feeling as if it could be theirs too!
At the end of the day, she thinks the best piece of advice she ever received was when her husband told her "you've got this!" and she wants to share this simple message with others. While it does not seem like a complex piece of advice, there are two reasons it is valuable. For one, it instills in you a belief that you really can fight this battle and will make it. The second reason, which holds more hidden value, is that someone else believes that you can make it and is there for you, even in the moments of uncertainty.
What makes her support group unique?
In most support groups, leukemia and lymphoma patients are usually together; however, in Lynne's support group she prefers to keep them separate as they involve different medications and treatments. She believes support groups can offer more benefit to patients if they are all going through as similar as possible procedures.
Lynne explains further, "we face many of the same battles, but we can understand and help each other better if those around us have the same flavor."
More about Lynne
So, what is some more information about Lynne, beyond lymphoma?
Her perfect day would be at the Caribbean Sea, but closer to home her favorite places to walk her bulldogs are First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach. She cannot live without her favorite gadgets of essential oil diffusers and an instant pot pressure cooker. Her favorite movies are Tommy Boy and Bridesmaids. However, if she wants to have a retro TV night, she will opt for either Star Trek or The Munsters.
Her days are often filled with her beloved hobbies of floral arrangements, travel, NFL football, scuba diving, cooking, snorkeling, boating, and baking. When she gets hungry, she loves to grab Tautog's crab nachos or Lucky Oyster's oyster Rockefeller. If she were going to eat it with three famous people, either alive or dead, they would be Stevie Ray Vaughn, Sean Taylor, and Joe Biden.
But what's something that she's done that others might not expect? She was a singer and saxophone player in a rock group during her twenties! But now she's more likely to be caught singing "Another Star" by Stevie Wonder or "Hail to the Redskins."
When asked what her favorite part of being a volunteer is, she said "giving back! So many people have helped me along my journey. It gives me great joy to pay it forward." She says that her inspiration comes from her "fellow lymphoma warrior" who unfortunately lost their battles, and she knows that they are supporting her and the group from a different place.
This can act as inspiration to all of us to give back to whatever community we are a part of in any way we can. Like Lynne says, there is no joy like giving back to those who need it.