Today I'm continuing my 'Sponsor Spotlight' series for the businesses and people who have chosen to support me on my journey to the crown. I am so grateful for a community that believes in me!
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I have the privilege of introducing you to Kristi Rogers of Bentonville. I have known Kristi for several years now and has always been an advocate of living a healthy and fit lifestyle. Kristi was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer last October (2014) and since has been raising awareness in the community through her non-profit organization, Cancer Charity 4 Life. I asked Kristi to share her story, so we could get a little insight on this rare type of cancer. Here's what she sent me...
"I have been in the health and wellness industry for the past 10+ years. I hold certifications through (NASM) National Academy of Sports Medicine - Certified Personal Trainer, as well as, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and a certification in nutrition and health and wellness. My mission during my health and wellness career has been to provide the tools to all individuals in helping them achieve ultimate health and wellness through proper nutrition and fitness, and influencing permanent change in their lifestyle. Prior to, I spent years in the health and life insurance industry and understand cultural indolence and poor nutrition. Further, I have been a nutrition coach and personal trainer helping others get a sound start to becoming fit, encouraging some to go that extra step and pushing others to exceed their goals and set new ones.
I am also an endurance athlete and one can always find me training to achieve my future endurance goals. I am an accomplished age group triathlete and Ironman Finisher.
However, MY STORY CHANGED after hitting a bump in the road with a rare cancer diagnosis on October 31, 2014.
I was running the Bentonville ½ marathon facilitated by the City of Bentonville Parks & Recreation called the "Bentonville Run Series." This was not my first go, for this race. In March 2014, I ran the race and finished strong with a top "3" age group finish. Certainly a big race and competitive age group field. So I was thrilled as I had worked hard, set goals and met them. This is what keeps me going. I'm goal oriented and always set them to keep me motivated striving to meet them, and moving forward. I am not different than anyone else that struggles with training, eating right and setting goals - it takes "work." One step in front of the other.
After my Bentonville ½ marathon run, my illiotibial band in my right leg was killing me. This was not unusual. I had someone set up at the finish line to stretch me out a bit and rub things out. I was working for Dr. Scott Bennington at the time, who does a lot with athletes and soft tissue issues. I told him he really needed to rub out a knot I had in my leg. After a few minutes, he finally felt the area I was talking about and said, that is not scar tissue, adhesion or trauma, it is a probable cyst or tumor. However, life was busy and other things kept my attention for the next six months. I went to see Dr. BJ Diemel at Northwest Medical through a referral from one of our own patients on September 18th. Not knowing it at the time, but Dr. Bennington had recently met Dr. Diemel a couple of weeks before my appointment but had not disclosed it me. Dr. Diemel happen to be aware of Dr. Bennington's practice and I later overheard Dr. Bennington mention Dr. Diemel's name and later found how God worked through these two men meeting and both collaborating, intervening, and making a difference in the care I received by pursuing additional testing.
Dr. Diemel could not locate my tumor by feel but remained persistent by ordering and reviewing x-rays which produced no sign, then by ultrasound which finally revealed the suspected cyst or tumor. During the testing, the doctor was beginning to assume that this was nothing more than ITB issues from overuse and could have sent me on my way but didn't. With collaboration between doctors, an MRI was ordered to try and confirm this walnut sized cyst or tumor with the hope that it's not anything to worry about just yet.
The MRI was schedule for October 2nd at Northwest Medical with a radiologist that specialized in soft tissue. The initial test was an MRI without contrast; however, the radiologist happen to be there that specialized in soft tissue and he wanted it done with contrast while I was there. This saved, what I found to be, precious time in getting a prompt diagnosis. What a PRAISE.
On October 3rd, I called to get a verbal on the test results, in that I didn't want to wait for a written report. The return call from Dr. Diemel came while I was work, which literally dropped me to my knees - cancer. He was very matter of fact, gave me the worst case scenario and it was very serious. Basically, I had been given a diagnosis without a biopsy yet, which ended up being accurate with what a radiologist viewed on my MRI. Dr. Diemel highly recommended I go to UAMS in Little Rock, AR, and see Oncologist Dr. Corey Montgomery, and don't worry about anything else on your end, he will take care of the referral to get the process moving forward immediately. The diagnosis is called Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma (ASPS - known as a childhood cancer).
I was scheduled to see my new oncologist on October 10th in Little Rock. Fortunately, Dr. Montgomery was a specialist in this type of cancer and was right here in our home state. I had developed a long list of questions, and my final question was on his thoughts after reviewing the data. The answer, "it didn't look good". The day became a daze. I didn't want to lose sight of HOPE, we have not done a biopsy and don't have a confirmed diagnosis yet. It was scheduled Oct. 17th for an intervention radiology biopsy at UAMS. The day of the biopsy, I was told the results would be available in 2-3 days. Well, needless to say that was the wrong thing to tell me, because I called relentlessly until someone finally would give me some results. The follow-up wasn't until October 31st.
The tests were in-conclusive but likely to be malignant. This stirred in my mind, how could they not know? On and on it went until I arrived in Little Rock for my follow-up with Dr. Montgomery. He came in with a model leg for anatomy and I knew a different explanation was coming. He reported that he does not like to have the nurse give results because the patient asks too many questions and he should be the one that gives the diagnosis and answer any questions. The results were a malignant cancer. A very aggressive type that metastases extremely quickly. Since it resides in fatty or soft tissues, it typically goes unnoticed until it is too late and the cancer spreads from the tumor source into the lymph nodes, chest cavity and brain. At that point, the patient is left with only a few months of life left. Luckily, I was in tune with my body, noticing this lump early. Surgery quickly ensued on November 11th, the tumor was removed successfully, along with a large portion of my lateralis muscle. Post op radiation was done at Highlands Oncology in Rogers for six weeks. This ASPS is resistant to chemotherapy. I was determined to beat this and get back to my activities as quickly as possible.
I will have follow-up scans every 3-4 months for the next several years but will continue through the next 10 years on a more sparing schedule, or until further research receives funding necessary to find the cause and/or a cure.
In my research, the one thing I heard over and over again was there is very little known about ASPS, not a whole lot of funding is available due to the percentages affected (1% of adult cancers, 15% of childhood cancers). And, that most funding comes from those affected directly or indirectly. I was sitting in a doctor's office, having a routine physical after all of this, and what I heard loud and clear was God telling me to use the skills and abilities I have in a different way and find ways to give back by raising awareness and funding for research. I resigned my health and wellness position to begin a new focus on giving back to those needing information, hope and research dollars. I founded the 501C3 Cancercharity4life organization as my vehicle. This has been a therapy to me in many ways. It is hard to read reality at times, but the one thing I do know is today is all any of us have. It is my hope that telling my story will encourage others to come together with me or with any charitable organization and get involved in making a difference in others' lives.
We have a great community here in northwest Arkansas, with great walking, running and biking trails. The Bentonville Community Activity Center and the Parks & Recreation Department's race series has been a blessing for me in my return to endurance sports. I was able to run the Run Festival's 1/2 marathon in March 2015 after being released from my oncologist on January 23, 2015. I was struggling with getting back in the pool, not motivated at all with plenty of excuses; but, the Ironman Challenge encouraged me stand up and step out and take the challenge. I needed to be in the pool due to continued rehabilitation of my quadriceps, which was partially lost in surgery. It's painful, but that's what I am use to in the insane world of multisport.
I am a firm believer in goal setting as I have mentioned above. That, along with desire, determination and discipline have been the only way I have been able to accomplish the goals I have reached. My next goal will be a marathon in Sacramento, CA that I will be doing along with my husband Rick Rogers.
Thank you BCAC for the encouragement and opportunities at this special time for me. Since my diagnosis, things have not been easy. I have been scared, anxious, worried, afraid, withdrawn, uncertain and overwhelmed. However, through being an athlete and a health and wellness coach, I have been able to use the mental and physical struggles and apply the same principles to achieving the goal of choice and changing those thoughts into gratitude, hope, kindness, positive, peace, faith, encouragement and try and inspire others to do the same.
My purpose is give back and make a difference, even if it means being an inspiration to anyone who needs it - not only as a cancer survivor, but a fighter. I will continue to train for triathlons and ironman competitions, mentoring others with illness and always encouraging those around me to be positive and keep fighting! I would like to see PINK as the new yellow in awareness."
If there is one thing I know about Kristi, it's that she is a strong being. Visit her website or Facebook Page to learn more about the rare cancer and ways to help spread awareness or donate. One of the best things about pageants is being given a voice and with mine, I am grateful for the opportunity to spread awareness for this cause.
Thank you SO much Kristi and Cancer Charity 4 Life, Inc for your support on my journey to the crown.
Want to be a part of this Sponsor Spotlight series? Visit my GoFundMe page and donate today! Anything helps and is greatly appreciated. I'm almost to my goal and couldn't do it without your help!
6 days and counting!