Survivor-Athlete Spotlight: Kathryn Kuhn & Carrie Green (39th & 40th 2019 ST&BF Survivor-Athletes)!

Survivor-Athlete Spotlight: Kathryn Kuhn & Carrie Green (39th & 40th 2019 ST&BF Survivor-Athletes)!

This photo was snapped just before the start of the “Doug Opel’s Run for the Kids” at the Sheboygan YMCA on Thanksgiving morning and it rather serendipitously includes the two most recent ST&BF Team members – Kathryn Kuhn & Carrie Green. And no, I didn’t plan it that way... it just happened! 😊

Photo (L-R): Tim Renzelmann, the Beacon of Hope and the two most recent ST&BF Team Members: Carrie Green and Kathryn Kuhn!

I asked Kathryn if she would be willing to share a brief summary of her story with our readers to which she graciously replied:

Kathryn Kuhn

In Memory:

Hi Tim, here is some info on my ‘journey’ with cancer. It’s longer than I’d like (both the journey and the info -haha)!”

I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in July 2011 at the age of 41. My treatment plan started with a bilateral mastectomy and removal of lymph nodes. 24 of the 26 lymph nodes tested positive for cancer. After 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 33 doses of radiation, and surgery to remove my ovaries, I was placed on an estrogen inhibitor in April 2012.

For the next several years, my oncologist kept a close watch through quarterly lab work and routine CT and bone scans. I tried to stay as healthy and fit as possible. By July 2012, I was running up to 3-5 miles several times per week. Over the next few years, I completed a couple of half-marathons. In 2016, I signed up with a CrossFit affiliate near my work. At least 3 mornings per week, I started my day by meeting the challenges of those workouts and growing in strength and confidence.

In mid-December 2018, I developed what I thought was lingering back pain. My quarterly lab work did not seem to indicate any trouble was brewing. However, after a long flight for a planned trip to Kenya in January 2019, the pain was so intense that I sought an MRI at a Kenyan hospital*. The scans revealed lesions in my liver and bones, so my husband and I flew home right away. Further testing confirmed metastatic breast cancer in my liver and bones. I received 10 doses of radiation to my left sacrum, followed by several months of chemotherapy and then a failed attempt at a CDK4/CDK6 inhibitor.

By September 2019, I thought I had exhausted all of my options for treatment and began the process of end-of-life planning. I transferred my care to Dr. Bettag who challenged me to try chemotherapy again. By October, I felt well enough to sign up for the indoor rowing group. I try to walk when I can, and yesterday I even added a few stretches of jogging to my 3-mile venture. Staying active through treatment helps me focus on what I CAN do, rather than the limitations cancer has placed on my life. For now, I’m looking forward to celebrating this Christmas with my husband, my 21-year old son and my 17-year old daughter - something we weren’t sure was possible just a few months ago.

*Fun fact: Not only was I able to have an MRI just by walking into that Kenyan hospital and asking for it - but the total cost for what eventually became 2 MRI’s, 1 ultrasound and consultation with 3 different doctors over the course of one evening and the following morning was the equivalent of $110...

Kathryn’s story is an inspiration to ALL OF US; the many cancer patients and survivors looking to live the best life they can after a cancer diagnosis along with those in the midst of cancer-related treatment (or dealing with other health issues) and to those who have been blessed with the fortunes of health! There are great benefits (of body, mind, heart and spirit) to be found when, as Kathryn suggests, we focus on what we can do and not on our limitations!

I also asked Carrie Green to share her story. Many of you are familiar with Carrie through her tireless efforts and integral involvement in the Sheboygan County YMCA’s LIVESTRONG program. In addition to her active schedule with area cancer patients and survivors through the LIVESTRONG group, she still finds time to join in on some of our Survive, Thrive & Be Fit activities and has earned her spot on the ST&BF team and she, too, graciously agreed to share:

Carrie Green

As I begin to write, I admit that I do not enjoy sitting or writing, especially about myself, and it takes a very special person to nudge me to share my cancer story in the midst of cyber-Monday and the start of what is promised to be a full and swift Holiday Season. On that note, I wish all of my “cancer friends,” my tribe of beautiful people whose lives and paths I may never have crossed if it were not for our cancer diagnosis, a very Happy Holidays!

Tim Renzelmann is one of those people in my life. Like Tim, I consider myself a long-term cancer survivor. Like Tim, I have found running, sports of all sorts, and activity a part of my life since I was very young. Unlike Tim, I did not almost qualify for the Olympic Trials but I believe my running is also what has afforded me the opportunity to give THANKS for over 14 years of survivorship. Like Tim, I have made it part of my life’s work to support other survivors and their loved ones in finding healing, hope, and wellness through and after a cancer diagnosis.

Moments before taking the picture that Tim included in this newsletter, I had a chance to hug many of my LIVESTRONG and Survive, Thrive, and Be Fit, survivor athlete friends who were also out on a cold Thanksgiving morning, moving their bodies and spirits. After the picture, I attempted to find my family; my daughters, son, and husband but they were already off and running at a MUCH faster pace than mine. I couldn’t be more grateful! Whether seeds of living healthy and well are deeply planted from childhood or explored for the first time later in life, I believe living a mindful life fueled with daily practices that might include exercise, healthy eating, meditation, yoga, balance, sleep, rest, and community have value on one’s quality and quantity of life. Oftentimes, we receive a “snapshot” of one’s situation, not fully understanding the before and after experiences that have and are deeply impactful in one’s life journey.

My cancer journey began in July, 2005. Our daughters were 1 and 3 years of age at the time. I was 31 years old and had a massive seizure that resulted in brain surgery on July 5th, my 8-year wedding anniversary. Earlier, on the day of my seizure, I had found a coin on the ground that had an angel on one side and the word “strength” on the other side. My husband, Charlie, placed that coin in my hand as I was heading into surgery. “Strength” became my mantra, my focus in the days, months, and years following my diagnosis.

During the 4 years of chemotherapy that followed my brain cancer diagnosis, I completed 2 marathons and my teacher training to become a yoga instructor. Charlie continued his medical training and my doctor’s advice was, “live your life as you would otherwise!” We followed this advice, not without tears, fear, anxiety, and many prayers. I spent very little time questioning “why” as I was fully present in raising our children and living life but a deeper piece of me wondered, “what am I to do with this experience?”

My answer did not come until 7 years later when my family was looking to move back to Sheboygan, the hometown where my husband and I were raised. The LIVESTRONG program at the Sheboygan YMCA was just about to begin and I knew immediately that this was my answer. I was still healing and exploring my own wellness as the opportunity to support other cancer survivors was surfacing. I have been beyond blessed to use my background as a therapist, yoga instructor, and love of all things wellness to share and connect with others! I knew from my own experience that support is needed well beyond the treatment for cancer. The discussions around HOW to go on living a full, purposeful life while grieving losses that are secondary to a cancer diagnosis is deeply needed. Learning the value of a healthy and balanced lifestyle is instrumental in moving forward with strength and grace.

In closing, before I resume my other “work” as taxi driver for our beautiful son who we adopted AFTER my diagnosis, essay editor for our oldest daughter who is about to launch into college, and cheerleader for our 15 year old daughter who is in the thick of high school craziness, I share with you two last words of hope. First, to those of you reading who are perhaps newly diagnosed or feeling anxious, there are people like myself who are not being followed in any scientific study. I learned we are called “outliers” which I love because it sounds like a rebel! In all seriousness, I believe healing happens on many levels and that it is so important to partner with your medical team and this supportive community of cancer survivors to learn more of what healing means to you! Secondly, no one knows what tomorrow brings! Create practices that allow you to live each day with as much purpose and joy as you can muster! Cheers to a new day, a new month, a new year, and a new decade! May you find strength and grace in every breath!

I first learned about Carrie’s cancer diagnosis back in 2005 from her mom, Ronna Cline, who at the time was a member of the SCCCF board of directors. We met for the first time in 2012, after she moved back to Sheboygan and began working with Sheboygan County YMCA CEO Donna Wendlandt to bring the LIVESTRONG program to Sheboygan. Through her work (and her mere presence) Carrie has brought so much energy and enthusiasm into our Local Cancer Community as she guides others to, as she states above, “Create practices that allow you to live each day with as much purpose and joy as you can muster!” How wonderful is that?

“Thank you!” Kathryn and Carrie for sharing these two powerful stories!

The Athlete Mindset and the Survivor Experience:

As a lifelong athlete I have often been inspired by the physical feats and accomplishments of great athletes. However, for me, being an “athlete” has little to do with physical performance factors such as speed or strength or stamina. In fact, the games that we as “athletes” engage in are, very arguably, quite arbitrary, silly and meaningless. As I see it, being an athlete is more of a state of mind and embracing the athlete mindset.

The athlete mindset requires a strong work ethic and an understanding that success is most often the result of hard work and commitment. It requires a humility towards one’s strengths and a willingness to be accountable for one’s weaknesses. It views mistakes, setbacks and failures as opportunities to grow and to learn from. It requires a sharp focus on those factors that are controllable in the present moment. It involves perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm, energy and passion.

As an athlete and a cancer survivor I have (through personal experience and observation) come to understand ways that the athlete mindset can often enhance the survivor experience. Kathryn and Carrie are just two of the many examples of that as they have embraced what I would refer to as the “survivor-athlete mindset.”

The survivor-athlete mindset views obstacles that come our way not as problems or barriers to hold us back but as challenges to adjust to, work through or overcome. The survivor-athlete mindset is based on personal responsibility and a strong sense of self-reliance tightly intertwined with a pledge of allegiance to your fellow teammates and a selfless commitment for the good of the team. In this sense, I am not referring to the team that is limited to the current roster of 40 Survive, Thrive & Be Fit survivor-athletes (as amazing as they are) but to a broader sense of the term that also includes LIVESTRONG at the YMCA survivor-athletes... and all survivor-athletes... and all of mankind!

I realize I may sometimes put too much emphasis on those five rather meaningless points that are required to become a member of the Survive, Thrive & Be Fit team... but, as I see it, those points represent one small step towards a greater goal. A goal that the Greeks, whom it is believed invented athletic competition and to whom the first Olympics can be traced back to (Olympia, 776BC), refer to as “Arete.” Arete is an idea from Greek philosophy that basically refers to being the best you can be or the ideal of human excellence.

Human excellence: Isn’t that something we should all concern ourselves with?

I strongly encourage all area cancer patients and survivors to “get active” in your cancer community! Whether you choose to “get active” through ST&BF... or through LIVESTRONG... or through both... or through another means... just “get active.” You need not be an experienced athlete... just a cancer survivor (anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer – a day ago, a month ago, a year ago, a decade or more ago; at the beginning of treatment, in the middle of treatment, at the end of treatment, in remission or cured; and is alive today) who is interested being the best you and living the best life that you can live following a cancer diagnosis.

Despite the fact we are in the final month of 2019 there are still plenty of opportunities yet this year to earn five points and your spot on the 2019 Survive, Thrive & Be Fit Team, the right to wear the blue of ST&BF and eligibility to participate in a “Team Members Only” experience in early 2020! Watch for details!!!

Congratulations all current 2019 ST&BF Team Members (as of 11/30/19):

November: Kathryn Kuhn, Carrie Green

October: Linda Ansay

September: Deb Borucki

August: Cindy Daane, Stacy Harriott

July: No new members

June: Stacey Hand, Sharon Pentek, Althea Smith

May: Carolyn Eiden

April: Rose Buteyn, Chris Meyer, Judy Rowe, John Seaman

March: Ron Boeldt, Lisa Glander, Mary Rohde, Beth Stockdale, Dennis Sundell, Rae-Ellen Weber

February: Barb Bogenschuts, Lenny Bogenschutz, Kathy Burch, Judy Clark, Leah Heusterberg, Mary Kempf, Dan Kunda, Candy Meyer, Diane Micoliczyk, Janet Sampson

January: Cindy Becker, Mike Brachmann, Bob Hartig, Jennifer King, Maryellen Kloiber, Beverly Leonard, Chris Lorge, Kirstin Opgenorth, Tim Renzelmann, Sue Zalewski.

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