McFee on Main celebrates a shop anniversary and its proprietor’s successful cancer treatments
September marks the five-year anniversary for McFee on Main and Lynn McFee's one-year anniversary of being cancer-free.
Lynn McFee of Mount Horeb was 60 years old in October 2019 when some bad scores on an insurance exam — high cholesterol and blood pressure — sent her to her longtime physician, who, in the course of duty, asked, “Have you done a colonoscopy?”
McFee, who does not lack spunk, replied, “Have you done yours?”
“Yes,” came the reply.
McFee requested a testing kit from Cologuard.
It started her on a path that was scary, thorny — battling cancer in a pandemic — and from which, with top-notch medical help, she emerged feeling healthier than ever.
A few years earlier, McFee had reacted to being laid off at Ralph Lauren — after a rewarding three decades in fashion and home accessories merchandising — by opening her own boutique, McFee on Main, in a historic building in Mount Horeb.
The point of intersection is McFee’s resilience and determination to accomplish what she sets out to do.
This month marks the five-year anniversary for McFee on Main and her one-year anniversary of being cancer-free. The two milestones will forever be entwined, and so McFee would like to give back to the UW Carbone Cancer Center, perhaps by organizing a style show fundraiser with herself and other cancer survivors as the models. She’d call it, “Thankful, Grateful and Blessed.”
McFee’s cancer experience is recent, but her embrace of fashion dates back decades.
McFee was born and raised in the Minneapolis area. Her family regularly spent Thanksgiving with relatives in Sheldon, Iowa. Her father and grandfather would go pheasant hunting. McFee would work in her aunt and uncle’s Sheldon clothing store, The Grey Shop.
“It was tons of fun,” she says. “Then in high school, I worked in a fabric store. I was always interested in sewing, crafting my own outfits.”
Unlike many teens, she was also interested in the business side of fashion. She had a good head for numbers. On a college night at her high school, McFee’s dad found a recruiter sitting in a corner who said his school had a fashion merchandising program. That school was the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.
“I’d never heard of it,” McFee says.
Her degree and experience at Point — she served as budget director for student government — led to a series of jobs in the Midwest with Dayton-Hudson, and that brought an introduction to the Ralph Lauren Corp., where she worked in various categories across the company: men’s, women’s, home. In 1990 she settled in Chicago, where she was based for more than two decades.
“It was a wonderful experience,” McFee says of her years with Ralph Lauren. “Mr. Lauren is an amazing man. I learned many lessons — priorities, customer service, not cutting corners.”
It was in Chicago, too, that she met John McFee, a native of the Mount Horeb area who worked near Chicago O’Hare International Airport and lived nearby. They kept a Chicago home when they married in 2006, but they also bought a home in Mount Horeb, either commuting or working remotely from both throughout the week.
Ralph Lauren laid off McFee in June 2016. The business was changing. There were no hard feelings — and it accelerated her plans to open a boutique in the historic building the couple acquired on Mount Horeb’s Main Street in 2015. McFee’s on Main opened in September 2016.
“I have a great little space,” she says. “I love my business.”
When McFee’s Cologuard test came back positive in November 2019, she was convinced it was a false positive. She felt fine. A colonoscopy proved otherwise. There was cancer; she was referred to a surgeon.
The cancer was slow-growing and the surgeon OK’d a trip with college friends that McFee had planned to Barcelona. They scheduled the surgery for Feb. 19, 2020.
Returning home on Feb. 12, McFee had a connecting flight in Amsterdam. “They started taking our temperatures and everyone was talking about COVID.”
The surgery went well, but a lymph node tested positive for cancer, necessitating a full protocol of chemotherapy. The state and the country were closing for the pandemic, so McFee wouldn’t see her oncologist — Dr. Sam Lubner from UW Health — in person until summer, but they shared a 90-minute phone call in late March in which he explained how everything would work.
Starting April 3 and continuing for 22 weeks for 12 sessions, she’d visit the hospital to have a port installed and chemotherapy administered, leaving with a fanny pack that would continue the process until a home health nurse arrived to unhook it 48 hours later.
On that first visit in early April, a hospital staffer walking McFee to radiology said, “You’re being very brave.”
“I put on my big girl panties,” McFee replied. “But if you keep talking, I’m going to cry.”
Her last chemotherapy session was Sept. 3, 2020. “They were 100% successful,” McFee says. She is cancer-free and down 40 pounds because of the healthy, plant-based diet she adopted during her treatment. She has never felt better.
McFee had a colonoscopy last May and was told she won’t need another for three years. Her doctors joked that they periodically need to check on the “tattoos” they created in her colon.
“Great,” McFee says. “I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but I’ve never been brave enough to put one on my body.”
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