She’s The Fifth of Eleven

When she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia Mary Kay Chupp left her close-knit southern Indiana community and came to IU Health Simon Cancer Center for treatment.

Beside her bed is a copy of the book “The Flight from Stonewycke,” a trilogy by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella. The book is a saga about three generations of an aristocratic Scottish family.

Like the characters in the book, Mary Kay Chupp is part of a close-knit family from Fredericksburg, a southern Indiana town of fewer than 100 people. The community is part of a 68-mile route that includes Amish settlements in Daviess, Orange and Washington Counties.

Back home, Chupp, who just celebrated her 24th birthday, lives in a six-bedroom house, the fifth of 11 children born to Floyd and Rosie Chupp. She first came to IU Health University Hospital in May after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

She had been battling a cold and sore throat for a week when her parents took her to their local doctor. She was treated for strep but the symptoms became worse. At first they thought she might have mono but lab work showed she had AML. At IU Health she is under the care of Dr. S. Hamid H. Sayer who specializes in hematology and oncology.

“We like to do everything we can to treat at home but knew we had no other options but to get medial help. We wanted the best for her and that’s how we ended up here,” said Rosie Chupp who has been with her daughter every day since she was admitted. Mary Kay is soft-spoken. Her smile reveals pink bands on her braces as she talks about her interest in reading her life back home.

Her mom turned one of the bedrooms into a sewing room and does some hemming for local customers. Mary Kay helps. She also works in her father’s cabinet shop. Mostly she helps around the house. The family raises vegetables in a large garden, and fruit trees in an orchard. They also raise hair sheep, miniature ponies, and horses to pull their buggy. They have steers for meat and several dogs as pets.

One day a week Mary Kay helps with laundry, one day she helps with sewing, and another day she bakes. She’s known for her chocolate chip cookies and she loves to prepare Mexican dishes for family meals.

She completed eighth grade at Twin Oaks School and enjoys spending evenings and weekends with her church youth group – playing softball or volleyball, attending picnics, singing hymns, or going on camping trips. Rosie Chupp can trace her family’s roots back to the 1800s. Her family is part of the New Order Amish.

“People know Mary Kay for her big smile. She’s always been quiet since she was a baby. In fact she’s very much a mama’s girl, but she’s also a friend to everyone,” said Rosie Chupp. “When word spread about her diagnosis, people were shocked.”

Church and community members have provided meals and financial assistance for the family and helped work on the farm.

“This is a very aggressive disease and it’s harder to treat but our goal would be a stem cell transplant,” said Rosie Chupp. “We don’t know what’s in store for Mary Kay long term. It’s every girl’s dream to get married. There’s no one special yet but we have to see what God has planned for her.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
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