Breast Cancer Survivor Reaches Finish Line With Help From Coworkers

For Kelly Kieselbach, it started out like many others’ breast cancer journeys.

A routine mammogram.

A suspicious spot, followed by a biopsy.

And then the news: Cancer.

For Kelly, stage 3 triple-positive breast cancer, to be exact.

That was in February 2015. By March, Kelly’s treatments had started, including chemotherapy.

“Due to it being triple positive, it was a pretty aggressive form of cancer,” Kelly says. “They started chemo right away but I didn’t react well to it.”

In fact, Kelly had such a bad reaction to treatments, she was out from work for six months.

“Just like anything you have complete shock and disbelief,” says the 42-year-old.

Walking away
The Fargo Marathon 5K was coming up, an event co-hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, and Kelly was looking forward to walking it – prior to her diagnosis.

Weak, tired and low since her diagnosis meant the last thing on her mind was walking 3.1 miles.

“I was still in the early stages of figuring out what was going on. The whole thing took a big toll on me and my whole world was completely out of control,” she says. “I was isolated and I was depressed.”

Reaching out
Already away from work for the past two months, Kelly received a much-needed phone call from coworkers, who invited her to stop by the office for lunch.

“When I got to the office, I noticed that a bunch of my coworkers were standing there with 5K t-shirts in support of me, and they’d made some for my family, too. My one colleague said, ‘Just so you know, you’re not alone and we’re here for you. We are going to participate in the marathon and wear these shirts in your honor.'”

Kelly says the concern she’d felt turned into gratitude for her work friends and family who were going to celebrate her, mile by mile.

“It was almost a gift just to drive home the fact that I wasn’t alone, and there’s others out there and just how much they cared,” she says. “It was something I needed at that time. Just to feel that support, it gave me a boost that I needed to get through the rest of the treatment.”

Making strides
The day of the race in 2015, Kelly recalls her friends huddling at the starting line due to a chill in the air. But nothing stopped them from reaching the finish line in her honor.

“They walked the whole thing and sent me pictures so I felt like part of it,” Kelly said.

One year later, Kelly recently finished her last treatment and surgery and is now cancer-free. This year, nothing’s stopping her from joining Team Kelly at the Fargo Marathon 5K Hero Run.

“It may take me a while but I do plan on completing it,” she says. “It started with them walking for me, now I’m going to finish it walking with them.”

Work heroes
Kelly says she isn’t so excited to walk the 5K for herself as she is to celebrate the amazing people she works with every day.

“They saw someone that was down, and they lifted me,” she says. “Never before had I felt so much support. Seeing the effort that they put in gave me a boost that was desperately needed.”

Lonna Whiting is an editor in the Communications department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.