July 19, 2012 at 8:08 a.m.
When Kim Hofmann attends the American Cancer Society Relay for Life this weekend as an honorary co-chair in Chisago County for 2012, she will be within one week of the two-year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. On July 26, 2010, she learned that her body was battling stage III breast cancer with lymphoma. Doctors found a malignant tumor in her right breast, and cancer had reached 16 lymph nodes under her right arm. She endured on 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. Her ordeal kept her away about six months from the career and workplace she has loved for more than 20 years. She 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 in school 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. One good day, she recalls, was when she planned a visit to the school early in 2011; many of her colleagues knew and spread word to the students, who designed T-shirts for sale with proceeds to help cover her medical expenses. As Hofmann moved through the halls that day, she found more than 500 students wearing black T-shirts printed with bright pink “I (heart) Hofmann.” Some colleagues coordinated meat raffles at a bar in Osceola, also 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.” When Hofmann begins that memoir, she will not have tales to share from other relatives, as there had been no family history with cancer. “I was the lucky one,” she said. 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, she credits her children; including Samantha, 21, Dallas, 18, and Dylan, 13; her life partner, Norm Thoreen and her parents, Richard and Anita, among her strongest supporters. Family and friends will join Hofmann at Chisago County’s Relay for 2012 Friday, July 20, when a reception for survivors opens at 5:30 p.m. followed by a program for the public at 6:30 p.m. The event is at the Almelund Threshing Show grounds on Highway 95.
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