PANW Medical Assistant and Community Volunteer, Lynn Hanks, Shows Resiliency When Faced with Son’s Cancer Diagnosis
Lynn Hanks has been a Medical assistant at Pediatric Associates of the Northwest for nearly twenty years and works with Dr. Evans-Smith and Dr. Buerk. For fifteen of those years, she has also been actively involved with St. Helens Little League. Since her oldest child was in T-ball through today, Lynn has coached Little League teams, volunteered her time as a Team Mom, and served on the St. Helens Little League Board.
Lynn has also organized several baseball tournaments, including one to raise money for a Little League family who had suffered a serious accident and did not have health insurance. The proceeds from the baseball tournament helped the family pay medical bills and contributed financially until the father’s health was restored. If there was a need in the St. Helens Little League community, chances are Lynn Hanks was involved with trying to meet that need.
This spring, Lynn learned first-hand what it is like to have a crisis hit her own family. Her 16-year-old son, Ian, was diagnosed in February with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He had been experiencing chest pain for a few weeks when Lynn brought him to PANW. A chest x-ray revealed a nine centimeter mass attached to Ian’s chest wall, with another section growing into his lungs. Since then, Ian has completed his fifth round of chemotherapy, and his doctors say his prognosis is good.
Now, Lynn knows what it is like when a community rises up to support you during an especially challenging time. She is overwhelmed and humbled by the many acts of kindness and support she has received this spring. The president of the St. Helens Softball Board is organizing a tournament to benefit Ian. Lynn has also received numerous gift cards and checks from her community, colleagues and friends. Once, while in line at the grocery store buying supplies to keep her son hydrated and healthy after he had a PICC line inserted, a woman behind her noticed the hospital bracelet and asked Lynn about it. When Lynn explained that her son had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a new PICC line, the woman insisted on buying all the groceries and supplies.
Lynn’s family has also been on the receiving end of community generosity through the Candlelighters – an organization dedicated to supporting families facing childhood cancer. The Candlelighters at Randall Children’s Hospital have provided Lynn with gas cards to help cover transportation back and forth to Ian’s many appointments. “When this is all over, I want to get involved with the Candlelighters,” Lynn says with certainty. ”It has made such a difference for me and my family. I felt ten years lighter when they handed me the gift cards.”
Being an active part of her community is something Lynn has always enjoyed. Even now, while Lynn finds herself busier than ever working full-time as a single mother of two, and managing her son’s chemotherapy, hospital stays, and home-care, she still serves as Team Mom for her younger son’s baseball team. “I can’t coach this year, obviously,” says Lynn, “but I can do things behind the scenes, like organize the team pizza party, and awards, and give rides to games and practices when kids need them.”
While the last few months have been anything but easy, Lynn’s resilient spirit helps her focus on the good in order to overcome the enormity of her son’s condition. “Ian has been such a trooper through all of this. He’s amazing. And you know…. this is a temporary bump in the road,” she says. “It could be a lot worse. Ian has one more round of chemotherapy and he is done. It isn’t likely to come back. So that’s six months out of his entire life. That’s small.” She also credits the St. Helens community, her faith, and her family, for being consistent sources of strength. Furthermore, Lynn is grateful to PANW for their unwavering support and understanding. “I could not have asked for a better work family.”