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Toby's Take: Cancer Rocks Your Life, Then You Rock It Back

Lynn Meredith's heart, "Kansas City Conquering Cancer"

June 22, 2022

Lynn Meredith is the kind of guy who’s fun to know. Once you think you’ve figured him out, you find out something else about him. He’s lived a lot in 70 years. That includes a prostate cancer diagnosis at age 67 and a daughter pushing him to enter artwork for consideration in the highly successful Parade of Hearts campaign.

It’s no wonder Meredith’s design got picked among the 156 large fiberglass hearts dotting the Kansas City area landscape these past months. He resisted at first. Then Parade of Hearts organizers extended the deadline of submission last year.

“I took that as a sign,” Meredith told me last week, right before many of the hearts were auctioned off in a colorful celebration at The Midland theatre downtown.

This disease is devastating to families, and this piece starts with the importance of never having children die from cancer.  – Lynn Meredith

Parade of Hearts submission

Renaissance man

Something of a renaissance man, Meredith has managed the Andy Williams Theatre in Branson, coached football at Kansas State, worked at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and pursued every kind of art you can imagine. It all started when he and some buddies started a band and decided to name it after their home state, Kansas.

Yes, that Kansas (Carry On My Wayward Son, Dust in the Wind).

“There were 3 versions of the band,” he said. “The third version was the famous Kansas.”

He had helped found the band and stayed through version 2.

Meredith and I first met 30 years ago when he was general manager of a radio station in Pittsburg, Kansas. I had graduated from Pittsburg State University (home of the Gorillas!) and started my broadcast career in earnest at KOAM-TV. Affable, funny, chock-full of great stories from his many escapades, Meredith is a great conversationalist. It’s hard to tell whether his storytelling led him into an adventurous life or is the result of it.

Time to carry on

Then, there was that one time he didn’t quite know what to say.

“I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have cancer,” a doctor said after a very abrupt but spot-on exam and diagnosis.

“It always rocks your world because you don’t know where it’s going,” he said. The first thing he would do is fight. Then call us.

“You knew to get to The University of Kansas Health System,” he told me.

The good news: He’s in remission and still visits the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion at our Westwood Campus every 9 weeks to check in with his oncologist, Elizabeth Wulff-Burchfield, MD.

People at Westwood Campus might not know who he is, but they see what he’s done. His artwork (predictably) was selected, and his decorated heart was on display in the “heart” of The University of Kansas Cancer Center location for all to see.

“This disease is devastating to families, and this piece starts with the importance of never having children dying from cancer,” Meredith wrote as a part of his submission.

Facing cancer as a family

See, that’s where his story – and inspiration – got even more real.

Meredith’s 2 adult daughters are cancer survivors. His younger daughter, Rachel, was diagnosed at 14 with Hodgkin lymphoma 2 days before her big sister, Kelly, was getting married. Then, Kelly had her diagnosis years later. Thyroid cancer. She also knew where to seek treatment. Kelly Vanbecelaere is an RN in the health system’s GI Endoscopy care area. No wonder the family, all healthy now, thought their artistic father needed to represent their fear, hope and triumph of world-class cancer treatment.

“As a person with cancer and father to 2 surviving daughters of cancer, eradicating this disease is especially close to me,” Lynn Meredith wrote. “I know Kansas City is becoming a strong center for cancer research and this piece exemplifies our fight and coming successes in conquering cancer!”

Last week’s blog entry featured the health system’s vice president of cardiac services, Barbara MacArthur. I had written about her overwhelmed reaction to seeing the Parade of Hearts displayed for the first time at Hale Arena in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. I had a similar experience, but I’m particularly grateful that night produced 2 blog entries.

Meredith called my name when I walked by as he stood near his heart. We mostly caught up on mutual friends. But he just oozed a gratitude for having survived cancer, having his heart on display and knowing at the time that those on the same journey would be affected by his heart (on so many levels), almost as much as his family would.

Carry on, Lynn. What in the world do you have planned next?

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