Mother touched by fundraiser in Plum on her behalf

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

Liz Stipkovits wasn't overly concerned when last November she found a lump in her right breast.

“I thought is was a cyst or calcification,” said Stipkovits, 31, a receptionist with Prime Care Internal Medicine Associates on Unity Center Road in Plum.

After undergoing a battery of tests, Stipkovits, of McKeesport, on Dec. 20 received news that changed her life. Doctors told Stipkovits that she had stage 2 breast cancer.

Over the next month and a half, Stipkovits, a single mother, underwent a lumpectomy and then separate surgery for a mastectomy. Surgeons also removed lymph nodes.

“The doctors said my right breast was full of cancer,” Stipkovits said.

“It was so aggressive that soon, it would have turned to stage 3.”

Stipkovits' follow-up treatment has included chemotherapy, which has resulted in her inability to work to so she can support her daughter, Maleena Engster, 10.

Stipkovits' financial situation prompted her friends and colleagues, including her boss, Dr. Amer Z. Akhrass, to organize a fundraiser for her from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Holiday Park Volunteer Fire Department.

“It (the staff at the medical office) is such a unique little team,” said Sherry Podobnik of Plum, a patient at the medical office who is helping organize the fundraiser.

Stipkovits' situation hit home with Podobnik, 61, who herself had a similar diagnosis when she was Stipkovits' age.

Podobnik said she instantly wanted to help.

“I am a psychotherapist, and the best therapy is from someone who can give real-life experience,” Podobnik said. “I remember all the things you feel. It can take you down so hard. It is absolutely your worst nightmare.”

Stipkovits said not being able to work is taking a financial toll.

“My family is taking the brunt of the financial burden,” said Stipkovits, who added that bills keep piling up.

Stipkovits said she cried when she found out about the fundraiser, and she is heartened by the support she has received.

“I am speechless,” Stipkovits said.

“There has been such an outpouring.”

Stipkovits hopes to finish chemotherapy treatments in the fall and get back to work.

“She is going to make it,” Podobnik said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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