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Frederiksen Elementary Community Rallies in Support of Parent Battling Breast Cancer

February 9, 2012

Dan and Linda Fitzpatrick

For Frederiksen Elementary School parent Linda Fitzpatrick, life has largely been what she had hoped for. A lifelong Bay Area resident, she has been married for 11 years and has resided in Dublin for the past seven years. She and her husband, Dan, are blessed with three children – son Frankie (10), daughter Ginger (8) and son Owen (6). This year, all three children attend Frederiksen.

Shortly after school resumed in August, 2011, Linda went in for a routine check-up with her OB. Her physician felt a lump during her examination and three weeks later she required further examination and a biopsy. Her doctors determined that she had breast cancer. Not long afterwards, Linda underwent surgery – a lumpectomy was performed with the recommendation that a cycle of chemotherapy be performed over the next several weeks.

The diagnosis for Linda was “invasive ductal carcinoma”. IDC is the most common type of breast cancer – affecting about 80% of all breast cancers patients. IDC refers to cancer that has broken through the wall of the milk duct and has begun to invade the tissues of the breast. Statistically, about two-thirds of women diagnosed are 55 years or older. This condition also affects men.

OneDublin.org recently had the opportunity to sit down with Linda and her family to learn more about their journey. With three children at one school, Linda has been an extremely active volunteer over the years and has served as a Vice President of the Frederiksen PFC. The local school community that has received so much of Linda’s support over the years has been generous in its support of the Fitzpatrick family during this difficult time.

OneDublin.org: What were your immediate reactions / emotions when you received the news of your diagnosis?

Linda Fitzpatrick: “It’s the biggest shock of your life. It’s simply not the news that you’re expecting and it throws you for a loop.”

OneDublin.org: How has your life changed over the past six months?

Linda: “Well, for one, Dan would walk the kids to school for drop-off and then I would pick them up at release. My doctors have advised me to get as much exercise possible, so I take care of both ends now. We live near Wells Middle School, so it’s a healthy walk both ways.”

OneDublin.org: Shortly after your diagnosis, a Shutterfly site was established to extend support opportunities to your family. What has this yielded and what other offers of support have you and your family received?

Linda: “It’s been incredible. We’ve received offers of support that include providing meals, doing our laundry, gift cards and taking care of our kids for various activities – there are more than I can list. The simple acts of kindness have been fantastic. Owen’s Kindergarten teacher, Kathleen Peterson, immediately knitted five hats for me. I’ve received hugs from complete strangers. A Safeway cashier gave me her pink bracelet without hesitation. The generosity of those in the community has been absolutely amazing.”

OneDublin.org: Due to your condition, what have you missed at school?

Linda: “Well, I’ve been so accustomed to being involved at Fred that I’ve removed myself from many of the activities that I love. Following doctors orders, I can’t really be around these children due to the risk of any type of infection. A simple fever for me that rises above 100.5, requires me to be hospitalized. However, I recently had a brief visit at my son’s kindergarten class and it felt great!”

Dan Fitzpatrick: “In some ways, I’m not surprised by the support. Linda has created so many great relationships for our family. It is representative of the person that she is – so giving in so many ways. The positive response, in many ways, is reflective of Linda. We appreciate how everyone has supported us.”

Many friends and strangers have helped Linda during her recovery, with one friend in particular playing an instrumental role in creating a support group for Linda. OneDublin.org had the opportunity to visit with Linda’s friend and supporter, Michelle Florkowski. Michelle also serves as the President of the Fredericksen School Site Council.

OneDublin.org: Upon Linda’s diagnosis, you were designated as the “point person” for getting the word out to the community. How did that come about?

Linda with Michelle Florkowski

Michelle Florkowski: “We have a small group that gathers for coffees and nights out. Once word got out, we decided to establish a common platform to share information. For us, it was easy as many of our kids participate in the same activities like soccer and other sports. The Shutterfly site took off immediately and we have grown to 60 people that follow the site and actively provide support to the Fitzpatrick family.

OneDublin.org: Have there been other “acts of kindness” extended to their family?

Florkowski: “Scores of them. Our soccer coach (John Morrison) asked if the players would be willing to wear pink bands throughout the season in honor of breast cancer awareness. They did so willingly in October and through the remainder of the year. There was another Fred mom who overheard in passing the story of Linda’s chemotherapy process. She knitted a hat for her and delivered it the very next day. There was also a Safeway clerk that spontaneously released her Breast Cancer bracelet to her upon learning of her condition. What a demonstration of community support!”

OneDublin.org: Anything else that you’d like to add?

Florkowski: “So many people are afraid to share an illness or to let people help them during hard times. Linda has done several things I believe that have really helped in her treatments and recovery – including having a positive attitude, letting people help her and keeping her ‘normal’ routine where possible for her and her family. From this point forward, she will be receiving radiation treatments for the next six weeks. This is simply the next step in her process.”

OneDublin.org wishes Linda and her family all the best with her treatment. We also encourage you to find more information on this subject at http://www.breastcancer.org/. OneDublin.org has made a donation to the American Cancer Society recognizing Linda and other Dublin residents who have been affected by cancer. Consider taking a moment to do the same.

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