A Family of Fighters: Lynn’s Early Detection Story

“I live in the moment as much as possible, because things can change in an instant.”       –Lynn Engen

Lynn Engen vividly remembers how she felt when she found out she had stage 2 breast cancer at age 44. It was less than two months after cancer claimed her sister’s life.

“My first instinct was to fight,” Lynn said. “I was still very devastated from my sister’s death, but I put my emotions on the back burner and focused on the problem in front of me.”

It was the same diagnosis her mother received at age 63; the same diagnosis doctors gave her sister at age 46 prior to her terminal battle with ovarian cancer.

Their diagnoses prompted Lynn and her other sisters to get annual MRIs in addition to their regular mammograms every six months. Lynn chose to drive the extra miles from her home in Fort Leavenworth to get the best care at Saint Luke’s North Breast & Imaging Center. Saint Luke’s has a team of dedicated fellowship-trained breast radiologists who have the expertise to catch things others might not.

The very next day after her MRI, Saint Luke’s called Lynn and asked her to come back in. Dr. Kelsey Flynt, the lead interpreting breast radiologist at Saint Luke’s North, shared that she found some abnormalities on her MRI.

“Lynn really started herself on the path to cure by being her own advocate and getting her MRI,” Dr. Flynt said. “She had two breast masses and abnormal lymph nodes on the left side, so getting her timely care was really important.”

Lynn came back in the following day to get both breasts biopsied. She met with Dr. Tim Pluard, the medical director of Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute, who explained her diagnosis and the optimal treatment that lay ahead consisting of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.

“The care I got was excellent because they found it on the MRI on a Tuesday, and the next Monday I had a treatment plan,” Lynn said.

Lynn’s experience as a military spouse prepared her to be resilient. She went to each chemotherapy treatment with a smile and a member of her support team by her side.

“I would bring my friends with me and we’d laugh the whole time,” Lynn said. “I wasn’t going to sit there and be sad or depressed. Chemo wasn’t a breeze, but it went better than I expected. My friend and I would joke around that I wasn’t that sick.”

After about five months, she finished her last chemo treatment

…her cancer was gone.

“It was amazing! We had a little celebration at my house—we were so happy about everything,” Lynn said. “It was really a relief; I wasn’t expecting to get the news.”

Lynn had a lumpectomy to remove the tissue where the cancer once was. She finished radiation treatments a few months later.

“At no point during my care did I ever feel that I was left alone; there was not ever a time where I thought I couldn’t call somebody with a question,” Lynn said. “I just always felt like I was really cared for.”

Today, Lynn is participating in a study to reduce her chance of recurrence. She works with a nutritionist to ensure she is eating the best foods for her body and exercises regularly.

Looking to the future, Lynn knows her teenage daughter will have the same strong family history for cancer. She is hopeful of more medical advances in the future and encourages her daughter to be her own advocate for her health.

“If you know your own history, only then will the doctor be able to recommend appropriate care for you,” Dr. Flynt said.  “Lynn is a great example of that. I know she’ll go on to do great things. I’m really happy that we got the opportunity to take care of her.”

Learn more about Saint Luke’s Breast Centers and schedule an exam at the location nearest you.