Amy Zing Lippert Hoffmann of Team World Vision: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Try to find the cancer community online as soon as possible. I didn’t find it until I was cancer free, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to find people who had my shared experiences and how essential these people have been in my life since I found them. You are going to feel like you don’t want to reach out, but they’re an amazing community and they’re here for you.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Zing Lippert Hoffmann.
Amy Zing Lippert Hoffmann is an advocate for clean water through Team World Vision, a mom of twins, runner and breast cancer survivor. She is dedicated to running to raise money for women and children to access clean water. 800 children die each day because of lack of clean water. World Vision is a global Christian humanitarian organization that partners with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
I have lived in Minnesota my entire life, and I actually wasn’t a runner growing up. I was a competitive dancer and a swimmer. I’ve always been active my entire life, but I had never been more than a casual runner until 2016 when I learned from World Vision that there are 800 children dying each day because of lack of clean water. This pushed me to sign up to do something I never thought I’d do — run a marathon and raise money to get clean water to those who needed it. This was a catalyst to a life dedicated to raising money for women and children to access clean water.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I always quote a line from a movie called Galaxy Quest: Never Give Up, Never Surrender. I quoted it several times during my breast cancer journey, and I also quoted it a lot during my marathon training and fundraising efforts. With adversity you have to think “never give up!”
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
I found my breast cancer lump by accident. I was doing a huge fundraising event with Team World Vision. It was going to shape up to be a pretty big fundraising opportunity, so I was just dancing in my bathroom when I noticed that I had a pretty significantly sized lump in my breast.
I started freaking out and went to urgent care the next day. They said, “well you’re 9 months postpartum, it’s probably mastitis”. But I only breastfed my daughters briefly as they were in the NICU and then I had complications. I was put on antibiotics and saw my nurse practitioner 2 days later. She said the lump should’ve gone away, so she put me on more antibiotics. After 10 days, the lump hadn’t gone away, so my husband and I advocated for further testing.
Since I was 33, she gave me a mammogram and ultrasound, but the nurse reassured me, “I’m pretty sure it’s not cancer.” It wasn’t until after they said I needed a biopsy that all of the sudden it dawned on me that this is cancer. We had to wait all weekend and then on Monday, May 17, I got the phone call and they said, “We got the results back and it is cancer.”
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
One of the biggest things said in the cancer community is “don’t google anything.” But of course, we googled, and my husband said as long as it’s not triple negative breast cancer, which is the most aggressive form, we’ll be fine. Well then, we found out it was triple negative breast cancer.
The fact that it could have been very aggressive was scary, but I didn’t ever sit down and think of what the worst thing that could happen was. Instead, I was really optimistic. During treatment, I didn’t think about dying but instead that I was going to get through it.
How did you react in the short term?
It’s hard to describe, and I hear this a lot from my fellow breast cancer survivors that people instantly put labels on you like “warrior” and “inspiring”. It’s interesting to think that just because I want to survive cancer, it suddenly makes me an inspiring person. Instead, my reaction was to train for a marathon! I decided to start training for the Twin Cities Marathon in 2021. It was crazy but I wanted to see how it would go.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
When you’re going through chemo, they give you a lot of steroids. I would have trouble sleeping on those nights, so the next morning I would wake up at 3 or 4 ‘o’clock in the morning and go for runs the day after chemo. Running gave me purpose.
My family and I would go on daily walks and some days, I would walk down to our local lake and sit and listen to the waves crash against the shore, which was very affirming and calming.
World Vision is a Christian organization, and many of my fellow runners were with me either physically or emotionally, which was super supportive. The people who came out in support of me made me feel less alone and encouraged.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
My good friend Kavan is a pastor and went to chemo a few times with me. He had a whole game plan of activities and an itinerary of what we were going to do. We would spend the whole time laughing! I feel really grateful for him. Even on the day of my mastectomy, which is an hours long procedure, he texted me constantly even though I didn’t have my phone so that when I woke up and was in recovery, I had over 100 text messages. It was so fun to wake up to read all of the messages that he took time out of his day to send to me while I was undergoing surgery. It was really nice to have a friend like that who was really with me the whole time.
Take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want to say?
It would have nothing nice to say!
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I have been running with Team World Vision since 2016. After I endured pregnancy and a hard delivery, I was constantly reminded that even though I have been through some really life threatening things, my life has never been more at risk than the children who walk to collect and drink dirty water.
I raised $17,000 while undergoing treatment, and the fact that I could use my story to make such a huge impact in Africa was just mind blowing. I thought to myself that I hate that I had to go through this, but I love that what I went through inspired others and changed lives.
I was able to finish my first marathon post-cancer this month. After the race, a mom reached out to me and said that her daughter is 26 and was diagnosed with breast cancer and just had her mastectomy in June, but that they want to run the marathon next year. She said that my story was going to be what motivates her daughter to get up and start training again. Having another young breast cancer patient and runner is part of why I share my story.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
Through my running and fundraising for World Vision, but also, during October, I’m spotlighting fellow friends and women I have met through the breast cancer community just to share our stories about being young and advocating for our health needs. There are a lot of organizations that no longer encourage monthly self-examinations. But it’s proven that majority of women under 40 get diagnosed from self-examinations. Insurance won’t pay for mammograms or ultrasounds under 45. I’m trying to spread that kind of awareness that we are the ones that are most at risk, we get the most aggressive kinds of cancer, and we need to bring awareness. We must share our voices, so that’s what I’m doing this month.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
The first is that sugar does not feed cancer! The other thing we hear is the idea of fragile cancer patients. Honestly, they give us so many drugs now that talking about our bodies and not looking sick enough can be very damaging to our experience. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “People like you don’t look sick” or “You seem healthy.” It’s still a battle even if you’re getting better with treatments.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.
- Try to find the cancer community online as soon as possible. I didn’t find it until I was cancer free, and I didn’t realize how much I needed to find people who had my shared experiences and how essential these people have been in my life since I found them. You are going to feel like you don’t want to reach out, but they’re an amazing community and they’re here for you.
- I know it’s going to be hard but exercise during chemo treatments. There’s been a lot of research to support the idea that moving your body helps circulate the blood flow and medication. One of my specialists seemed to imply that all my marathon training helped me have a complete response to chemo. After my mastectomy, there wasn’t even a tumor found in my breast anymore!
- Don’t be afraid to articulate very real things that you need during treatment. Whether it’s needing someone to cook your meals, do laundry, come over to clean, or even just coffee. Being able to share what you need during treatment with those you love and care about will help you.
- As hard it seems, having a positive outlook. Saying, “I will beat this.” You can have crappy days, but you have to remember that you can beat this.
- Talking and being real about your experience. I never put any rose-colored glasses on what I was going through. I was very vocal during the hard days. So many people want to tie a ribbon around that it’s this okay experience, but share the good, share the bad, share the ugly, and then people will better be able to support you during those times when you’re feeling sick, bad, or depressed.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
I feel most passionate about running for fundraising projects and talking about breast cancer awareness for younger people.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 😊
Chelsey Gomez is based in Florida and brings current and former cancer patients together on her page. I would love to get breakfast or lunch with her and a couple of my breasties I met from around the country. I would not have met them if it weren’t for her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!