Columbus woman gets new lease on life

October 3, 2018

Editor’s note: In honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Columbus Telegram is publishing a week-long series, “Think pink,” sharing the stories of community members who battled or are currently battling breast cancer. The Telegram’s masthead is also pink this week instead of its normal red to commemorate the month.

Lynn Vollbracht moved at a fast pace up until 2012.

Between serving as director of Immanuel Lutheran Daycare, spending time with her family and other commitments, she didn’t have much time to slow down. But that changed in the spring of 2012 when she had to get a required health screening for work.

“We did our annual health screens and the gal who did mine said, ‘your blood pressure is kind of high. When was the last time you were at the doctor?’” Vollbracht said. “I had to stop and think, and it had been over two years, almost three, since the last time I had been to the doctor.”

Vollbracht, who for her entire life has lived in or around Columbus and Platte Center, said she scheduled a physical, mammogram and other standard health appointments that May.

“It was a good thing that I did,” she said. “That was the mammogram that showed me I had breast cancer.”

More specifically, doctors discovered Stage 2B in her right breast. It was aggressive, invasive carcinoma, she said.

“Everyone always has moments or times in your life you never forget – the birth of your baby, the day you got married. Another one that stays with you forever is when you hear the words ‘you have cancer,’” she said. “You will just always remember that feeling. It’s a lot of mixed up feelings – it’s feeling scared, it’s feeling uncertain, it’s feeling a lot of things that all of a sudden start crashing in at once.”

Vollbracht didn’t waste time. She went through a recommended lumpectomy, a surgery that removed only the tumor and a small rim of tissue around it. She then underwent three months of chemotherapy at Columbus Oncology and Hematology Consultants, took a short break and powered through radiation treatment at Columbus Cancer Care.

By October 2012, she had gone into remission.

Going through it was a lot easier with the support of her husband, Mark, and three daughters, Lindsey, Natalie and Ashley.

“I think I was so lucky to have family close by. I was so blessed through all of the treatment to be able to stay here in town,” Vollbracht said, noting she might have had to travel to Omaha or Norfolk as recent as 10 years ago for treatment. “Having a Christian faith, that certainly helped as well.”

Although Vollbracht has been in remission for the last six years, the experience gave her a new lease on life. Immediately after finishing her treatments in 2012, she began working with Susan G. Komen, the largest and best-funded breast cancer organization in the United States. She continues to help organize the local and annual Relay for Life event held each summer in Columbus and serves as a volunteer for the Columbus Cancer Care Foundation.

“My Mom always had a strong faith before this, but if anything, I think going through this made her faith stronger,” said one of Vollbracht’s three daughters, Lindsey Rosno, who is a fourth-grade teacher at Lost Creek Elementary School and was present when her mom found out she had breast cancer. “She has really become a huge advocate to spreading awareness for cancer and early detection.”

In 2018, the Susan Komen organization predicts 40,920 female breast cancer deaths and 480 male breast cancer deaths. By promoting awareness for the disease, Vollbracht said she’s hoping to make a positive impact on those numbers. She continues to undergo regular exams.

“Annual mammograms are important. I always think we may have found it even earlier if I had done it sooner, but I don’t know,” she said. “I just feel so strongly that with early detection, breast cancer is very treatable. So much more than it was 20 years ago.”

Going into remission around the time of her birthday was a sign from God, she said.

“October 1, today is my birthday. I found it was a neat connection,” Vollbracht said on Monday. “It’s really fun to be able to celebrate my birthday and also be able to tell everybody life is a blessing. It’s really a gift and you just need to celebrate that and not take life for granted like I did.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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