January 13, 2023

Making dreams come true

Member achieves bucket list goal of helping to build a Rose Parade float, thanks to her care team at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado.

Lynn Replinger proudly worked on the Kaiser Permanente Rose Parade float.

Lynn Replinger, 66, loves flowers. For well over a decade, her bucket list has included a trip to Pasadena, California, to work on a float for the Rose Parade. As an amateur flower arranger, Replinger appreciates that the floats must be covered with living materials, like moss, flowers, and plants.

Replinger tried to attend the Tournament of Roses festivities in 2021, but she was too sick and in the hospital.

In 2022, Replinger’s cancer and palliative care teams at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado made it a mission to help her reach her goal. Her cancer treatment was paused temporarily so she wouldn’t feel too yucky —  as she put it — to travel and enjoy the special trip with her big sister, Gail.

“The point of cancer treatment is to help you live life. So go out and live it!” said Replinger, who has been a Kaiser Permanente member for 32 years.

Replinger was 37 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My care at Kaiser Permanente has been excellent,” she said. “When my cancer came back the second time, my friends encouraged me to get a second opinion. I went to the University, where the oncologist said, ‘You’re getting the gold standard — stick with Kaiser Permanente!’”

After fighting the second bout of cancer, Replinger and her family enjoyed a 21-year remission. Unfortunately, the cancer returned 4 years ago in her lungs and lymph nodes.

“In June, they told me most people in my position would have had 3 to 6 months to live. I’m not most people, thank goodness!” said Replinger.

Multiple ologists and seamless communication

“I have an oncologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist, primary care doctor, ophthalmologist, endocrinologist, gastroenterologist — more ologists than anyone should hope to have! But they’re all great!” exclaimed Replinger.

Replinger shared that communication between her many ologists has been seamless. The specialists can easily collaborate to review and advise on her personalized treatment plan, thanks to Kaiser Permanente’s integrated care model. Her electronic health record helps keep her whole care team updated on her progress.

Having all the specialists knitted together has been particularly helpful to Replinger before certain treatments and surgeries.

“They’re a team, and they treat me as a full member of the team. They listen to me and explain why a certain treatment might be good and ask me for my opinion, which I really appreciate,” said Replinger. “I love my KP team. They're very good at realizing the need to balance living with staying alive.”

Replinger’s cancer is aggressive and mutating quickly. She’s been through many forms of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

“I’m fortunate to have a caring team and a team that knows if you’re fighting cancer, you do it so you can live life and spend time with your loved ones.”

Navigating cancer and holding onto hope

A few days before the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Replinger and her sister Gail — who is also a breast cancer survivor — fluffed red carnations to cover the gigantic heart on the Kaiser Permanente float and crushed coconuts for the white spaces on the Louisiana Celebration Riverboat float.

On parade day, Replinger “enjoyed the energy of the participants and seeing how the floral materials were used to create all the gorgeous floats.”

Replinger is a firm believer in holding onto hope and encourages others not to automatically link a cancer diagnosis with death.

“Medical science is progressing so rapidly that you need to hold onto hope. They’ll find a treatment best suited for your situation. My oncologist, Jesus Hermosillo Rodriguez, MD, is always looking at new research and trying new treatments. He’s persistent. He doesn’t say, ‘You’ve run out of options.’ Instead, it’s ‘Well, let’s try this one.’”

Ongoing cancer research

Getting to participate in the Rose Parade thanks to her Kaiser Permanente care teams isn’t the end of Replinger’s story. She continues to take advantage of new cancer treatments, and she’s also helped contribute to the cancer research field.

In addition to Replinger’s sister, her mother, grandmother, aunt, and 5 cousins have had breast cancer. After going through genetic counseling at Kaiser Permanente, Replinger and her family were invited to participate in a University of Washington research study that identified the PALB2 gene, which carries a higher risk of breast cancer. The American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics calls the PALB2 mutation the “third most important breast cancer gene after BRCA1 and BRCA2.”

“Because there were so many of us, it was even easier data to find the gene mutation. It’s even easier for cousins, than for mothers and daughters, because they don’t share as much genetic material. We got into that study because of Kaiser Permanente.”

Learn more about cancer care and research at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado.