Relay honorary chairpersons share their stories

Jim Linehan of Taylors Falls and Kim Hofmann of Chisago Lakes have been chosen as the honorary co-chairpersons for the Chisago County Relay for Life this year. Come out to the Almelund Threshing Show grounds this Friday and you can meet them as they celebrate with family and friends. A reception for survivors opens at 5:30 p.m. followed by a program for the public at 6:30 p.m. Here are their stories.

Kim Hofmann (second from left): may have been one of her best years. Photo supplied

Kim Hofmann

When Kim Hofmann attends the Relay for Life Friday night, she will be within one week of the two-year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis.

It was July 26, 2010, when she learned that her body was battling stage III breast cancer with lymphoma. Doctors had found a malignant tumor in her right breast, and cancer had reached 16 lymph nodes under her right arm.

She went through seven rounds of chemotherapy that fall, and underwent a double mastectomy in January 2011, followed by seven weeks of radiation treatments.

“I’ve been cancer-free ever since,” she said.

Hofmann has taught Spanish at Chisago Lakes Area High School, her alma mater, since 1989. She tried to start a new school year in September 2010, two months after her diagnosis, but the struggle forced her to take long-term leave before October.

She returned to work the next March, following radiation, and completed that spring plus another full year and counting.

“I’m a lifer,” she said.

Hofmann, 46, would have had reason to consider the last half of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 as her worst year, but she speaks of the love and support that she felt from her family, friends, colleagues and students as though it was also one of her best years.

Moments to remember

One day early in 2011, Hofmann planned a visit to the school; many of her colleagues knew that, and spread word to the students, who designed T-shirts for sale with proceeds to help cover her medical expenses.

In the halls that day, Hofmann met more than 500 students wearing black T-shirts printed with, “I (heart) Hofmann.”

In addition some colleagues coordinated meat raffles at a bar in Osceola for her benefit.

“I’ve always been a doer, and to accept help from other people is very difficult,” she said. “People just came out of the woodwork who were very generous.

“I don’t think my feet ever touched ground the whole year,” she added. “It was just amazing. I’m thinking someday I’ll write a book.”

Hofmann has no family history of cancer.

She laughs about the journey now, just as she did then. “I had to handle it with some humor,” she said of losing hair as a result of chemotherapy, among other realities. “I think that helped my children through it.”

Away from school, her children Samantha, 21, Dallas, 18, and Dylan, 13; her life partner, Norm Thoreen; and her parents, Richard and Anita, are among her strongest supporters.

Cancer survivor Jim Linehan says it’s important to follow the rules. Photo supplied

Jim Linehan 

Unlike Hofmann, Jim Linehan of Taylors Falls, the other honorary co-chairperson for the 2012 American Cancer Society Relay for Life, lost many family members to cancer including his brother, Gregg, their father and a grandfather.

Linehan started taking things seriously after he turned 50.

He underwent a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in July 2005, where physicians identified possible cancer, and they confirmed it following biopsies that September.

With a fighting spirit, he went through laparoscopic surgery in October followed by 39 bouts of radiation into the spring of 2006.

He was declared cancer-free in 2007, and as a former patient he took a standard PSA every six months through five years into 2012. Now he will plan on an annual PSA.

“It’s just a simple blood test,” said Linehan, who continues to work part-time as a night unit specialist at the Hazelden treatment center.

“Everyone (over 50) should also have colonoscopy screenings and a yearly physical.”

Despite his family health history, he was shocked to receive his cancer diagnosis. “I was totally taken by surprise. I had no idea what a PSA was,” he said.

Today, he sees prostate cancer as a likelihood for any man with the fortune to live long enough.

“Prostate cancer to a man is like breast cancer to a woman,” Linehan said. “It’s not preventable, it’s probable. Don’t mess around with it. Follow the rules.”

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