South Charlotte woman reaches a place of peace, for herself and loved ones
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Saturday, Apr. 12, 2014

South Charlotte woman reaches a place of peace, for herself and loved ones

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- COURTESY OF KATE WEAVER
“I want people to think of me as a person who never gave up,” said Paula Takacs, shown here with her husband, Geof, and son, Gray, in 2009. “Someone who lived with a purpose and strove to make a difference in this world.”
  • Learn more:

    • For information about the foundation Paula Takacs started, where most of the money raised is now funneled to The Levine Cancer Institute, visit www.sarcomastomp.com.

    • For information about Hospice and Palliative Care in the Charlotte region, visit www.hpccr.org.

Paula Takacs is a fighter.

She has endured far more in her 40 years than most people do in a lifetime.

When she was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the connective tissues including bone, fat and muscle, her prognosis was not good.

“She never wanted to know the odds, but I knew she only had a 50 percent chance of making it five years,” said her husband, Geof, 39.

Paula fought for nine years, enduring nine surgeries, five courses of radiation and six rounds of chemotherapy, four of which were clinical trials. She often had to travel across the country to receive care at five comprehensive cancer centers, because many of the treatments and specialists she needed were not available in Charlotte.

“My doctor called me a warrior, and that meant a lot to me,” Paula said.

But now, instead of fighting for her life, she is turning her inner strength and courage to facing her death.

Paula Takacs has called in hospice, a decision she agonized over because it signifies the end.

She worries it implies she is a quitter, but the friends and family who have rallied around her during her fight know she is anything but that.

Takacs even started a run, the Sarcoma Stomp, and a nonprofit foundation, all while battling her own cancer. The run and nonprofit have raised almost $350,000 for sarcoma research.

The Takacses, who live in south Charlotte’s Beverly Crest neighborhood with Gray, their 9-year-old son, first knew something was wrong days after Gray’s birth.

Paula still looked pregnant when she returned home from the hospital, and her stomach was hard and unyielding.

Several tests later, Takacs was told she had liposarcoma. She immediately was whisked into surgery, where a 22-pound tumor was removed.

“By contrast,” Takacs said, “Gray was only 8 and 1/2 pounds.”

Geof, who met his wife when both were working as investment bankers at Bank of America, said the two were not about to give up without a fight. “We looked under every rock for a solution, and when the rock yielded nothing, we looked again.”

But just after her 40th birthday, in February, Paula knew it was time to stop fighting.

“It came down to Gray,” she said. “I didn’t want to put him through watching me deteriorate. I want to protect him, not scare him. And I want him to have as normal a childhood as possible.”

Paula told Geof she was not going to pursue more treatments, and together they told their son.

“Calling hospice has been a gift to both of us,” Geof said. “Too often people wait until it is too late to bring them in.”

The family now has a hospice team that includes a nurse, doctor, social worker and bereavement counselor. The team will provide palliative care and make sure she is as physically comfortable as possible, and provide her the emotional comfort that comes from knowing she is, in her own way, taking care of her husband and son.

“This is something I could do for them,” she says. “I am at peace.”

Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at bowserwoof@mindspring.com.

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