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THis ONe’s for the

Fighters

5 area women And tHEIR Stories of fighting through the unthinkable


from the

EditorS

Stride is published 12 times a year and is free. Copies are available at over 1,000 Fargo-Moorhead locations and digitally at fmstride.com.

October 2013 PUBLISHER Spotlight Media LLC. www.wedomagazines.com President/Founder Mike Dragosavich Editorial Director Andrew Jason Stride Editors Candice Grimm, Josie Eyers Art Director Andy Neidt

I

have been amazingly fortunate in my life to have not been directly impacted by cancer. When considering how I was going to interview five women who had or were currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, I thought, “How will I possibly be able to understand what these women are going through?” It was humbling, and I am so grateful for every minute I got to spend with them. They taught me so much about life — what it means to struggle and the sacrifices you must make to stay positive; how your faith can carry you through even the toughest circumstances. Their stories also taught me how to support others who are going through cancer treatment. Each of them had a unique support of family and friends, and each of them found their own way to stay positive and strong. I can only hope that I continue to be so fortunate to not face cancer, but if I must, now I know that I could handle it because I’ve witnessed the strength of others who have handled it before. Everyone who has been impacted by cancer has a story to share, and all stories are equally important. This entire issue certainly could have been filled with page after page of people who have had breast cancer. My biggest hope for this issue of Stride is that each one of these women’s stories will teach you something, too, about the things you have to be grateful for.

Josie Eyers 4

Stride • October 2013

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think it’s safe to say fall is finally upon us. As the leaves begin to change colors and we say goodbye to the warm sunshine of summer it’s important to remember the change of seasons is no stranger. It arrives each and every year without missing a beat. But unlike seasons, you cannot predict when change decides to knock at your door and turn your world upside down. Our October issue tells the stories of five incredible women whose lives have changed forever with the four simple words, “You have breast cancer.” Yet, each of these women refuse to let this “change” get the best of them. They’ve persevered and continued to be pillars of strength not only for one another, but for their friends and families as well. As you page through this month’s issue, I hope a spark of change will ignite your senses. I hope you’ll realize that change is an ever present part of life, whether it be for the good or bad. Through change, great gains can be made. By keeping a positive attitude through the tremulous times, anything and everything that’s deemed impossible — like beating cancer — is possible.

Graphic Design Andy Neidt, George Stack, Sarah Geiger, Sydney Schermerhorn Research/Contributors Josie Eyers, Candice Grimm, Gwendolyn Hoberg, Julie Garden-Robinson Copy Editors Candice Grimm, Andrew Jason, Josie Eyers, Tracy Nicholson, Norah Kolberg, Sarah Tyre Web Design/Social Media Jake Schaffer, Erica Kale

SPOTLIGHT MEDIA General Manager Brent Tehven Sales Manager Paul Hoefer Marketing/Sales Tracy Nicholson, Ben Stechmann Circulation Manager Seth Holden Administration Erika Olson PHOTOGRAPHY J. Alan Paul Photography (jalanpaul.com), Candice Grimm, Jenna Lenertz Delivery Codey Bernier, Chris Larson

Spotlightmedia

Candice Grimm

CONTACT 502 1st Ave N Ste 100 Fargo,ND 58102 701-478-7768 info@fmspotlight.com

Stride Magazine is published by Spotlight Media Inc. Copyright 2013 Stride Magazine & fmstride.com. All Rights Reserved. No parts of this periodical may be reproduced without written permission of Stride Magazine & fmstride.com. Stride Magazine & fmstride.com will not be held responsible for any errors or omissions found in the magazine or on fmstride.com. Spotlight Media Inc., accepts no liability for the accuracy of statements made by the advertisers.


CONTENTS

Overcoming Adversity

Gluten-Free Dining

Breast Cancer 24

Shape it Up with Cyclocross

pg

STORIES

6

11

Gluten-Free Dining Gluten-free and hungry? We found six places in the FM area that offer gluten-free goodies.

15

Grocery Shopping Tips Reclaim control of your grocery shopping experience with these tips on saving time and money.

Stride • October 2013

19

Jeremiah Program A new program for single mothers is coming soon to the Fargo community. Learn all about how the Jeremiah Program changes lives two generations at a time.

24

This One is for the Fighters Get inspired by the stories of these five women whose lives were changed forever with the words, “You have breast cancer.”

36

Overcoming Adversity Read how Ben Cousins, a wrestler at Concordia College, overcame the challenges of autism to be successful in not only the sport of wrestling, but many other aspects of life as well.

43

Shape it Up with Cyclocross Cyclocross isn’t your typical bike race. We met up with Zach Johnson, a local Cyclocross racer, to find out more.


} { TEAM Meet the

Brent

Tracy

Amanda

George

Ben

Candice

Email andrew@fmspotlight.com with resume and examples of work.

Stride • October 2013

Jesse

Seth

Erika

Andrew

Joe

We’re looking for writing or photography interns.

8

MIKE

Andy

Sydney

Josie

Erica

Jake


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A mix of gluten-free cupcakes by bake•ol•o•gy

n e t u Gl Some may think it’s the newest fad diet but it’s not. Eating glutenfree (GF) is a necessity for those diagnosed with a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, rye, barley or any crossbreeds of these grains. Gluten causes an adverse effect on the body to those with a gluten allergy or sensitivity. Celiac disease is the most extreme of the gluten allergies.

Xtreme Degree Pizza from Xtreme Pizza Kitchen

Gluten-Free Dining in the FM Area By Candice Grimm Photos by Candice Grimm and Jenna Lennertz

Gluten-free: it’s a hot button phrase that’s popping up everywhere these days. 1

bake•ol•o•gy

2

Xtreme Pizza Kitchen

408 Broadway N, Fargo 701-388-1130 bakeology.us

1404 33rd St. SW. Ste. D, Fargo 701-298-0420 xtremepizzakitchen.com

The local dessert bakery, bakeology, owned by Kristina Lau and Andrea Chang, offers all of their cupcake flavors gluten-free upon request. Their special blend of gluten-free flour is used instead of wheat flour. They have an extensive cupcake menu that includes classics like Red Velvet and gourmet flavors such as Banana Split. Stop by Unglued downtown to try one of bakeology’s gluten-free cupcakes.

Xtreme Pizza Kitchen of Fargo has been offering gluten-free pizza crust to their customers for over five years! The gluten-free pizzas are prepped in a separate space from where Xtreme Pizza’s regular wheat flour dough pizzas are made and separate utensils are used to top and cut the gluten-free pizzas to keep exposure of wheat flour to a minimum. Their original pizza, alfredo and basil pesto sauces are all gluten-free and Xtreme Pizza also uses special gluten-free cheese to top their gluten-free pizzas. Their gluten-free pizza is available in a 10 inch size and any pizza option, from classic to gourmet, can be created on the gluten-free crust.

With those unable to consume gluten, going out to eat can be a headache. Without having the luxury to choose from pasta, breadsticks or pizza to name a few, there isn’t much left on the menu to pick from other than a tantalizing house salad, but be sure to hold the croutons! We found six local Fargo-Moorhead establishments that offer gluten-free options for their customers with a gluten allergy — making going out to eat less stressful and fun again!

CELIAC DISEASE

Celiac disease is a lifelong autoimmune condition affecting adults and children. When a person with Celiac disease consumes gluten, it creates an immune-mediated toxic reaction that causes damage to the small intestine and does not allow food to be properly absorbed, according to celiac.org.

Stride • October 2013

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3

Maxwells

4

1380 9th St. E, West Fargo 701-277-9463 maxwellsnd.com

Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad Tower from Maxwells

Doolittles Woodfire Grill 2112 25th St. S, Fargo 701-478-2200 doolittles.com

Miso Soup from Drunken Noodle Maxwells of West Fargo has a menu that will make the taste buds of those with a gluten sensitivity dance. Though there are a few items on the menu, such as their crab cakes, that are not gluten-free, the majority of entrees offered at Maxwells can be made glutenfree upon request. Maxwells has a selection of gluten-free items that can be substituted in place of traditional sides or extras. The chefs and staff at Maxwells prides themselves on being able to offer quality meals to their customers with food allergies.

5

Drunken Noodle 623 NP Ave. N, Fargo 701-232-3380 drunkennoodle.com

Assortment of GF items from Just Grains

12

Stride • October 2013

Doolittles Woodfire Grill of Fargo offers more than just delectable smells and delicious entrees; they have an extensive glutenfree menu for their customers with a gluten allergy. One of the establishment’s signature entrees, the Spit-Roasted Chicken, is completely gluten-free and a favorite for those with or without a gluten allergy. The scratch kitchen set-up Doolittles restaurant accommodates allows their chefs freedom to create gluten-free sides or extras whenever needed.

Drunken Noodle of downtown Fargo has a menu that offers flavors from around the globe. From Asian inspired stir fry dishes to all American classics like Mac n’ Cheese, those with a gluten allergy can enjoy a number of the exotic dishes Drunken Noodle has to offer. All gluten-free entrees are made with rice noodles and gluten-free sauces. In addition to their gluten-free entrees, Drunken Noodle offers gluten-free appetizers such as Golden Tofu and Edamame. Next time you’re downtown and craving a great gluten-free meal at an affordable price, stop by the Drunken Noodle.

Scallops with Pineapple from Doolittles

6

Just Grains 23 4th St. S, Moorhead 218-477-1786 justgrainsbakery.com

Just Grains is Fargo-Moorhead’s newest gluten-free bakery. Matthew Mehl of Mehl’s Flour Company and Jesse Kennedy have teamed up to bring tasteful and affordable glutenfree bakery products to those living in the FM area with gluten allergies. The store recently opened and offers a plethora of gluten-free goodies. From fresh baked sandwich bread, cranberry biscotti, chocolate cake to cream puffs – everything at Just Grains is gluten-free and pocketbook friendly.


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By Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Professor and Food and Nutrition Specialist at NDSU

This fall, as households become busier with homework and extracurricular activities, we still need to make time to eat and not break our budgets in the process.

our the grocery store to refresh Let’s take a trip around get money. our for on riti nut st mo the memory about ways to

Warm-Up

• Check out the grocery store ads and plan your menus incorporating some of the foods that are on sale. •Write your grocery list to correspond with the layout of your favorite store. To save money, stick to your list. •If you bring your kids to shop with you, they can learn in the process; however, they may exert their “pester power” (an actual marketing term) to get you to buy advertised products.a Set limits ahead of time or find time when you are able to shop without their assistance.

•Have a snack before you go shopping so you are not as tempted by all the foods you see. •If you have a distance to drive, be sure to bring a cooler with ice to keep your perishable and frozen foods cold. •For quick trips, shop the perimeter of the store where you find produce, meat, dairy, bread and fewer packaged foods. •Get menu ideas, nutrition tips and five weeks of menu plans and recipes by visiting ndsu. edu/eatsmart. In the search area, type “Healthful Meals on a Budget.”

Produce Most kids and adults need about 4 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily, so spend some time in the prod canned, fresh, frozen and dried frui uce aisle. Remember that toward the total recommendatio ts and vegetables all count n. Check out the “in-season” produce, which are at peak quality and colorful fruits and vegetables. Try best price. Aim for a variety of a new fruit or vegetable.

Stride • October 2013

15


Canned Goods ds are higher in sodium labels. Some canned foo Compare nutrition factssame food (such as frozen or fresh.) than other forms of the ned beans (such as the sodium content of can NOTE: You can reduce percent by draining and rinsing the beans in kidney, navy) by about 40 d beans are high in fiber and an inexpensive a colander at home. Canneout the free “Spilling the Beans” cookbook on source of protein. Checkbsite.* NDSU’s agriculture we f /yf/foods/fn1646_full.pd *www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs

Snack Foods Look up and down on the she strategically placed at eye levelves. Many of the more expensive items are l to tempt either adults or kid on the food! s, depending Opt for more whole grain foo ds such as brown rice, whole bread and popcorn. grain cereal,

Frozen Foods

Read and compare labels wh and cereal. Some granola bar en buying packaged foods, including snacks s are similar to candy bars in Look for snacks providing wh nutritional value. juice, opt for 100 percent juic ole grains and less sugar. When buying e rath er tha n fruit flavored drinks, which often contain little or no juic e. Compare the unit prices (pr bigger box isn’t the bigger ice per ounce or other unit.) Sometimes the bargain!

Shop for refrigerated and frozen foods last so they stay

cold. Compare foods. Foods without added sauces are usually healthier. Plain vegetables are healthier than ones with added sauce. Check the package dates. Many refrigerated products

list a “sell-by” date. This date tells the store when to stop selling the produ ct. You can use the food safely at home for a while after the date. Eggs, in fact, can be refrigerated up to five weeks at home, although you may see some quality loss.

Meats

Choose le per ounce an meats, poultry, fish of meat becto get the most food and other protein fo for lean meaomes a 3-ounce “po for your money. Afterods. Compare price rt t. It’s abou t the size oion” at the table, the cooking, four ounces standard se f a deck of Use fresh m cards. rving size packaging eats within a few d m ay at s of purchas freezing al erials for longer e or fr NDSU’s agl types of food, see th-term storage. For m eeze in proper ore e “Food Fre riculture w ebsite.* ezing Guidinformation about e” found o *www.ag. n ndsu.ed u/pubs/yf/f oods/fn40 3.pdf

The Finish Line • Beware of the temptations at the checkout such as candy, magazines and other small goods. • Don’t forget to hand your coupons to the checker. Watch as your groceries are scanned and check your receipt for errors. • Consider using reusable cloth grocery bags, but wash them regularly. To keep food safe, use a separate bag for meat. • If you pack your own groceries, don’t leave some behind at the store. Be sure to gather them before you leave the store.

16

Stride • October 2013


Steve Walker Fargo

701.235.7812

steve.walker@ countryfinancial.com


Transforming Lives

Two Generations at a Time Since 2009, the number of single mothers living in Fargo-Moorhead has increased by 16 percent. Jeremiah Program, a nationally recognized nonprofit program that helps single mothers break through the cycle of poverty, will offer a chance for a new beginning to single mothers living in poverty in the FM area. We had a chance to talk with Andrea Hochhalter, Director of Community Outreach for the Jeremiah Program of Fargo-Moorhead, about Jeremiah Program’s philosophy and its impact. Though the Jeremiah Program of FargoMoorhead is still in its developing stages, there is plenty for interested candidates of the program to get involved with until the program is fully operative in 2015.

of lter - Director Andrea Hochha remiah Je e th r fo ch trea Community Ou d. rgo-Moorhea Program of Fa

2013

The Jeremiah Program Life Skills Education Course is offered in Fargo-Moorhead.

Jeremiah Program Requirements Due to the structure of the Jeremiah Program, determined single mothers seeking to change the lives of themselves and their children must meet a number of requirements before being admitted into the program: 1. Low-income single mother at least 18 years old. 2. Resident of the state of ND or MN for at least two years. 3. High school graduate or GED certificate. 4. Enrolled in post-secondary education program. 5. Children under the age of 5.

By Candice Grimm Photos courtesy of Jeremiah Program of Fargo-Moorhead

2014

Jeremiah Program Life Skills Education Courses continue. Pre-admission work begins for potential Jeremiah Program participants. Campus construction begins.

The Four Cornerstones of Jeremiah Program 1. Safe and affordable housing. 2. Quality early childhood education. 3. Life skills and personal empowerment training. 4. Support for career track education. Stride • October 2013

19


Jeremiah Program Approach The Jeremiah Program was founded in Minneapolis, MN. The program focuses on helping single mothers break through the cycle of poverty through a two-generation approach by preparing determined single mothers to excel in the workforce, readying their children to succeed in school and reducing generational dependence on public assistance. “The two-generation approach is what’s really needed to break the poverty cycle. By working with the mom, we’re going to get her stable and educated. We’re going to give her access to safe and affordable housing, we’re going to give her access to quality early childhood development for her children, we’re going to provide life skills training and empowerment work in a supportive community,” said Hochhalter. “By doing that, it frees up a myriad of barriers and obstacles the mother has been experiencing in trying to earn a college degree.” Once in the Jeremiah Program and living on the program’s campus, mothers must work part time or volunteer while seeking part-time employment, complete Life Skills training requirements and work with a Jeremiah Program life coach to set and meet personal development goals until

2015

they’ve completed their college degree. The women will be responsible for paying 1/3 of their income toward campus rent. In addition, the children of the Jeremiah Program are engaged in quality early childhood education programs and receive individualized education plans.

Jeremiah and Fargo-Moorhead

In 2009 the conversation of whether or not the Jeremiah Program would be a good fit for the FM community began. Hochhalter formed a group of volunteers and committees to further investigate the need for such a program. “Jeremiah Program is a community partner with other organizations and agencies,” Hochhalter said. “We wanted to see if there was anyone else in the community addressing the needs of single moms in this fashion with outcomes … but we were finding that wasn’t happening. … We found silos of support for the women, but not a program addressing the myriad of barriers in a holistic way.” After Hochhalter and her group of volunteers surveyed the FM area, they identified a strong network of postsecondary educators, employers and the need expressed by single mothers and other service providers.They recognized the area

Jeremiah Program of FargoMoorhead will be fully operative and families will move in.

as a perfect place to bring the Jeremiah Program to. Hochhalter has been working in tangent with others in the community to create a Jeremiah Program model that will be sustainable in the FM area. Though the program won’t be fully operational, including campus housing, early childhood education center and program services until 2015, there are a number of programs happening right now for single mothers to engage in until that time. Currently, mothers can sign up for the six-week Life Skills Education Course. The course emphasizes life skills, career readiness and economic independence, along with other topics that are a part of Jeremiah Program’s curriculum. The requirements to enroll into the Life Skills course aren’t as rigorous as those for the Jeremiah Program, but it does require a strong level of determination. “I love being able to help people today with our Life Skills course, but it’s hard to tell them ‘Unfortunately, at this point in time we’re in a start up phase and the housing isn’t available, the childcare isn’t available yet. But stick with it! Stick with us!’ … I can’t wait for the day when we open the doors and we’re moving those first families in,” said Hochhalter.

2017

The first class of single mothers will graduate from Jeremiah Program of Fargo-Moorhead.

To find out more about the Jeremiah Program and the Fargo-Moorhead campus, visit jeremiahprogram.org under the Fargo-Moorhead locations tab, visit their Facebook page (Jeremiah Program Fargo Moorhead) or e-mail fargomoorhead@jeremiahprogram.org. 20

Stride • October 2013


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This one’s for the

Fighters Five area women and how they fought through the unthinkable

C 

ancer is one part of this world that never discriminates: young or old, rich or poor, blond or brunette — cancer is life-changing for everyone. October has become a motif for the world of people draped in pink, standing against breast cancer. Nearly every week is full of events that create aware-

ness of the disease and remind us how cancer changes lives. Everyone who has been touched by cancer has a story to tell. That’s why we devote this issue to sharing the stories of five incredible women who have been touched by breast cancer. Some are survivors, some are recovering and others are just beginning another difficult journey. All of them are fighters. This story is not just for them, it’s for those who fight against what breast cancer has taken away from so many people. This story is for the fighters. By Josie Eyers Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

24

Stride • October 2013


Stride • October 2013

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Advocate Janell Meier

Having a team of doctors you trust is important, but Janell Meier learned that sometimes, you have to be an advocate for your own health.

26

Stride • October 2013


M 

eier was 27 years old when she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. “I had felt a lump in my left breast, and I was watching it for quite a while.” She went to the doctor in February 2009, but the doctor told her she didn’t need to worry about it because she was so young. She left it unexplored until her annual checkup in October, when a different doctor decided to do an ultrasound to check it out. The radiologist told her he didn’t think it was anything and he suggested waiting another six months to do another ultrasound. “I just kept questioning him and drilling him about that, and he finally said, ‘Well, if you were in your forties, I’d definitely do a biopsy,’” Meier said. “When I heard that I said, ‘let’s just do a biopsy now.’” She got through the biopsy thinking it was probably nothing — everything would be fine. The next day, Meier got a call from the doctor while she was at work; he told her she had cancer. “Once you hear ‘cancer’ it’s like a total shut-down. It was pretty traumatic,” Meier recalled. “I just sat down, and I felt so small. It’s the weirdest feeling ever because you feel like time is standing still for you but no one else.” When she drove home after work that day, Meier heard a song on the radio that became her inspiration for courage during her treatments. “Kenny Chesney’s ‘Alive and Well’ — that was kind of my theme song going forward. … Everything is going to be okay. I’m going to get through this,” she said. After that first call from the doctor, Meier had to wait three days before she met with a surgeon. She came with a long list of questions about chemotherapy and how her treatments would affect her ability to have children, which was beyond the expertise of a surgeon. She left the appointment with a lot of unanswered questions, so she decided to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, for a second opinion. Physicians at Mayo Clinic helped Meier get a plan together. Her first step was to preserve some of her eggs because chemotherapy can damage eggs stored in the ovaries. Then, the day before her 28th birthday, she began four months of chemotherapy. “Christmas day was when my hair started falling out,” Meier said. “I had cut my hair short because I knew it was coming. … My mom and dad were making Christmas dinner and I just looked at my husband — ‘We need to shave this.’ At first I didn’t think I’d be able to shave my head, but once it starts falling out, it’s like you have to gain control again, you have to feel like you have control over something.” Before her family sat down for Christmas dinner, her husband got the shaver and her mom got the

camera. She faced away from the mirror while her husband began to shave her head. All of a sudden her husband started laughing. “How can something be funny right now,” she had thought. “I turned around and he had shaved a Mohawk in my hair,” she said. “It was something to laugh about. And that’s something through my whole journey that was important for us: to keep humor and keep things light.” After chemotherapy, Meier had a double mastectomy, after which she attempted immediate reconstruction that failed because she got a serious blood infection. She began radiation and finished at the end of August. Meier’s PET scan before chemotherapy

“Today’s the first day of the rest of my life and I’m alive and well” —Kenny Chesney, “I’m Alive” showed an area on her hip that doctors thought was probably a shadow; however, the PET scan after chemotherapy showed the area had disappeared, so they assumed it must have been cancer there, too. They never biopsied that area, but her records indicate that it was Stage Four cancer. Because of that, she also had radiation on her hip. While going through radiation treatments, Meier’s throat began hurting very badly. A doctor told her she didn’t have to worry about it because it was normal. The doctor told her, “Just don’t eat chips.” She definitely avoided chips; in fact, it hurt so badly she was on a liquid diet. The next week, she happened to see a different doctor. “He looked at my records and here they were overshooting the radiation into my throat when they weren’t supposed to be,” Meier said.

Meier’s journey continued with Tamoxifen, a daily pill, Herceptin IV treatments every three weeks for two years and Zometa (a bone hardener) IV treatment every six months for five total years. She is still required to take Tamoxifen pills every day, which prolongs her inability to start a family. Tamoxifen pills can cause birth defects, so she cannot get pregnant while on that drug. Originally, she was set to take the drug for five years after her cancer treatments, but recent studies showed that ten years was more beneficial, so now she will be taking Tamoxifen for ten years total. Her cancer was estrogen and progesterone positive, so the drugs she is on block those hormones. If she were to stop taking the medicine to get pregnant, those hormone levels would raise, which could cause the cancer to return. “It’s been a tough decision to decide what to do,” Meier said. Since she preserved some of her eggs before undergoing treatment, one possibility to start a family is to have a surrogate. “I’ve thought about it, but haven’t really moved forward with it,” she said. “I could decide to have a surrogate. That’s definitely an option that we are still considering.” Throughout the ups and downs of going through treatment, Meier found solace in journaling and her faith. “There were so many tiny examples of things that happened to me on my journey that helped me realize that God was looking down and protecting me,” she said. “He was giving me the strength, courage and hope to get through one day at a time. He put people in my life that I needed at that time, and he worked through them.” With every setback she experienced, Meier learned how to be an advocate for herself. “Even after my rough start with the doctors not diagnosing it right away, there were a couple other things that afterwards, if I wouldn’t have kept pushing and questioning, there could have been other problems,” she said. She has made it her mission to educate as many young women as she can about how they can be an advocate for their own health. “Even if doctors tell you you’re too young (as they did with me) or to watch it closely for another six months, if you don’t feel comfortable with that, keep questioning it,” she said. “Sometimes doctors will give a diagnosis and say, ‘This is what it’s going to be.’ But just know that you are your own person and you are not a statistic. … Educate and empower yourself by getting the answers that you need.”

Stride • October 2013

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Strength Shaina Adelman Shaina Adelman conquered cancer once before, and she is determined to do whatever it takes to beat it again.

28

Stride • October 2013


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delman finished

had

just

nursing her second daughter when she felt a lump in her breast. At first, her doctor didn’t even feel the lump, which was about the size of a Tic-Tac, but a biopsy revealed that it was cancer. Adelman was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks before her 30th birthday, March 2011. “People think it won’t happen, but you can be young and still get cancer,” Adelman said. “Twenty-nine is young. … I had always thought that, too — that I was healthy. My doctor always says I’m still healthy, I just got cancer.” A week after diagnosis, she had a lumpectomy, but doctors said the margins were too close, so she went back for a reincision. When the doctor told her she was going to lose her hair, Adelman was devastated because she was a hairstylist. She had met clients who had lost hair due to chemotherapy and she had seen how it grows back gray and coarse. “That was one of the hardest things for me, but once I lost it, I realized I didn’t look that bad bald, so I didn’t really care,” Adelman said. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be once it all fell out. I looked like Sinead O’Connor.” In May, she began four rounds of chemotherapy at the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo. “The voices in my head started telling me I should cut my boobs off,” Adelman joked. “So a month after that, I had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction (expanders).” After that, she went through 33 treatments of radiation. Later, she had problems with the expanders, so in May 2012 she had DIEP flap reconstruction at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “They take your belly and make you boobs,” Adelman explained jokingly. “Pretty cool. So I got pretty much free liposuction.” One of Adelman’s biggest challenges while dealing with breast cancer was taking care of her two kids when she was sick. She tried her best to keep some sort of normalcy for her family. Her two daughters were almost 1 and 3 years old at the time. “Having small kids while going through this was probably the hardest out of anything,” she said. “They don’t understand why you are lying around, bald and looking ill. You are still just their mom and they want to play.” One day, Adelman was playing with her daughters: one daughter was “Doc

Mcstuffins” and the other had an alligator that needed a doctor. “She took it to the doctor and said, ‘It has this sore leg and I think it’s cancer. We cut her open and the cancer was the size of a marble, so we took it and threw it in the garbage.’ I wish it was that easy—to just take it and throw it in the garbage. No such luck,” Adelman said, laughing.

A year later, she was still experiencing pain near her rib, so she went to the oncologist again. She told the doctor she had been feeling unusually tired, so he decided to do blood work, which revealed that there was cancer in her bone. She asked her doctor what the prognosis was and he said two to five years. “I said ‘that’s bullshit. I’m going somewhere else,’” Adelman said.

Staying busy helped Adelman keep her mind from negative thoughts during her treatments for breast cancer, and she advises others who have received a cancer diagnosis to do the same. “You can’t just lay and feel sorry for yourself. You definitely have to stay busy, keep working. You can’t

In November, Adelman and her family will travel to Marbella, Spain, for three weeks. At the Centro Medico Hilu, she will try new treatments that are not offered in the United States. “There’s just so many treatments out of the U.S.,” she said. It will be expensive and not covered by insurance, but Adelman is determined to try something new. “They do a lot with stem cells there [in Marbella] and they do hyperthermia, where they heat your body up and cancer cells don’t know how to react with heat,” Adelman explained. “And they do stuff with reoxygenating your blood.” She will also do five localized radiation treatments in Fargo in October before heading to Spain.

“God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldier.” keep totally normal, but keep your life as normal as possible as it was before. Laying around feeling sorry for yourself isn’t good.” No one can predict what claim cancer will make next and the thought of reoccurrence is a fear for many who have fought cancer once. In July 2013, that thought became a reality for Adelman when she found out that the cancer had metastasized to her vertebrae. Right before the Fourth of July, 2012, Adelman was having pain near her rib. A PET scan did not show anything, so the doctors figured her rib pain was associated with the after-effects of radiation treatment.

Adelman is resolute upon fighting the cancer with everything she has. “If it doesn’t work, at least I can say that I tried everything,” she said. “So we’ll start with Spain and go from there.” Although she is determined to stay strong, knowing she will have to fight cancer again is not an easy thing to face. “The first time around was easy compared to this time. I mean it wasn’t easy, but … knowing how you feel when you go through treatment and losing your hair, how people look at you,” she said. “It happened. You can’t do anything about it, so basically you just need to do whatever you can do to keep it from — I was saying keep it from coming back, but now that it’s back, it’s a little different story.” She didn’t let cancer defeat her the first time, and she won’t let it win this time either. “I just put it out of my head. … I’m kind of tough,” she said. “I’m going to get through it, have surgeries, do whatever I need to do and move on with my life.” She plans to get a tattoo across the scar on her stomach of a quote that she turns to whenever she gets down: God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldier. “I figured that would be a good cover-up for my scar that goes from hip to hip across my stomach,” she said. Other women from Adelman’s breast cancer support group may see her unbendable attitude as inspirational, but she takes a humble approach. “I’m not an inspiration, I’m just … going to get it done,” she said.

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Fearless Pam Knapper

After living five years cancer free, Pam Knapper is leaving her legacy by helping other women with breast cancer through FM Breast Friends support group, a group that has dubbed her the “fearless leader.”

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ne morning in December 2006, Knapper awoke to see red streaks running along her arms and toward her breast. She went to the emergency room and was prescribed an antibiotic. The infection didn’t go away so she went in for a mammogram, which led to a biopsy. She was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at 40 years old. Knapper said the statistics for recovery from inflammatory breast cancer are low, and she remembered praying that she would make it through Christmas. Then she went for an even bigger wish: to see her kids graduate from high school. “I’m fortunate my (second) son just graduated,” Knapper said. “Those were two things that were really on my wish list, and I’ve accomplished them.” The treatment for inflammatory breast cancer is more intense than for other types of breast cancer. Knapper went through chemotherapy and then had a double mastectomy and removal of all the lymph nodes in her arm. At her follow-up appointment, Knapper found out that all of her lymph nodes had been full of cancer as well, which meant that the treatment didn’t work the way it should have. Her doctor told her she didn’t really know what direction to go from there, so Knapper reached out to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She lived in Houston for three months while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Knapper knew that cancer would change her forever. “One of the most difficult things is the change you are going through,” she said. “It’s a permanent change; you’re never going to be the same, so you have to get used to that new normal.” For Knapper, the new normal meant helping other women who were dealing with the same things that she had gone through with breast cancer. “I’m not happy that I got breast cancer, but breast cancer changed me as a person for the better,” she said. “I guess there is a reason things happen.” Knapper’s experience of going through cancer treatment led her to form a place where other women with breast cancer could share what they were going through and support one another. Knapper recalls feeling alone while she was undergoing treatment. “My support system was awesome — I had great family

and friends — but it just bothered me that there’s some people out there who didn’t have that support,” she said. One of Knapper’s classmates, Lisa Verworn, was diagnosed with breast cancer six months after Knapper and they became each other’s support. Verworn and Knapper agreed that there was a greater need of support for women dealing with breast cancer and that’s when the idea of FM Breast Friends was formed. “We decided that when we were both healthy, we would start a support group,” Knapper said. Together, they formed FM Breast Friends in 2008. The group meets in the basement of the Moorhead Library once a month.

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure in fact whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.” “It’s a safe haven for women,” Knapper said, describing the atmosphere of the group. On average, 25 women attend each meeting and one new member attends each month. “For me it was really important just to meet another survivor,” Knapper said, and now she is the image of a longterm survivor for others. “I know we’ve had many people come to the meetings and say it’s just so inspirational to see another survivor.” Integral to the support group are the friendships that are formed between the women. “Good or bad, we’re there,” Knapper said. “We’re not going anywhere.” Knapper also organizes fun events for the

group to have a chance to lighten up and get their minds off of cancer. “It’s important that it’s not all just about cancer,” she said. “It’s being able to live with cancer and being able to have fun and laugh.” The support group offers Hope Totes to newly diagnosed women. They also offer travel scholarships to women who want to attend the young survivors’ conference and they help women in the FM area who struggle with the costs of medicine. The group puts on a fundraiser every year on the third weekend in January called Support the Girls, with a silent auction, a merchandise store they call the Booby Boutique, and music by the Front Fenders. Through her own experience with cancer and from hearing the stories of many other women, Knapper has accrued helpful advice for those who are newly diagnosed with cancer. “Keep a positive attitude and instill laughter in every day,” she said. “Cancer can take many things away from you, but it can’t take away your smile.” She found that people want to help, so even though opening your heart to others is hard, you should let them help you. “(It’s a matter of) putting your pride down and saying yeah, I do need help, and you just figure that someday I’ll pay it forward,” she said. She also learned that the process of finding a support system may surprise you, as the friends you think will be there for you might not and the ones you don’t expect are often the ones that step up to support you. “Don’t take rejection personally,” she said. “People tend to shy away because they don’t know what to do, and that’s ok. … When you come to those days that you are at your lowest, rely on your faith and let God handle your worries.” Knapper views the time she dedicates to FM Breast Friends as her pay-it-forward. “I call it leaving my legacy,” she said as tears pooled in her eyes. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference, so I think with my diagnosis and the statistics being not in my favor, I think for me to be able do this … it’s a part of my legacy. … If what I went through could help other women, it would be worth it. And to have women come up to me and say, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without the group,’ it just makes it worthwhile.”

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Courage Valorie Steichen

Valorie Steichen lives with Stage Four breast cancer that requires indefinite treatments, yet she is not dismayed. She has the courage to view her treatments as a positive part of her life.

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teichen felt a lump in her breast two years prior to being diagnosed with cancer, but each year at her annual exam the doctor said the lump was probably just fibrocystic breast tissue. She would leave those exams feeling confident, like everything was okay. The third year, she just wanted a clear answer about the lump, so she went straight to the breast clinic. The doctor at the breast clinic was concerned about the lump, so Steichen had a mammogram immediately and then she did an ultrasound and a biopsy. She was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma in July 2009 at 36 years old. The diagnosis did not come as a complete surprise to Steichen because she had been questioning it for a couple of years. She had worked at the Roger Maris Cancer Center for eight years, though she had left the position a few months before she was diagnosed. “I was actually pretty calm because I had been in cancer research as a coordinator, so I knew a lot about the disease itself,” she said. “I kept saying I’ll be fine as long as it’s not Stage Four.” Later, however, she learned that the cancer was Stage Four and it had spread from the breast tissue to her spine. She began chemotherapy right away and then she had a left mastectomy followed by radiation treatments that ended about a year after her diagnosis. Since her cancer was Stage Four, she continued to receive treatments of Herceptin, a drug that essentially blocks her tumor from growing. For the past four years since her diagnosis, Steichen has come back to the Roger Maris Cancer Center to receive Herceptin through IV treatments, a process that takes about a half hour. “I feel very fortunate that it worked for me because I’ve met numerous women with my same situation since being diagnosed and some of my friends are not here anymore,” Steichen said. She also receives Zometa, a bone hardener drug, every sixth months, as well as a gamut of oral drugs. Recently, on Aug. 1, Steichen had DIEP flap reconstruction surgery, where the blood vessels below the bellybutton and the skin and fat connected to them are removed and reconnected in the chest. It’s an involved surgery that usually lasts 12 hours. She had to stop Herceptin for two months to be able

to complete this surgery, which was why she didn’t do breast reconstruction right away after radiation. Knowing she wasn’t in control of what was happening to her body was a difficult part of treatment for Steichen. “It was one time in my life where I didn’t feel like I knew what the future held,” she said. She had to trust that her care team and doctors would try everything they could to help her. She also trusted God throughout the situation, as her journey with cancer brought her faith to a new level of understanding. She related to a quote titled “The Serenity Prayer,” which requests peace to accept what cannot be changed.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Steichen’s background in cancer research had given her an advantage to understanding all the terms and procedures that go along with cancer. “I honestly don’t know how patients who don’t have a lot of background and knowledge of the terms that are used understand what’s going on,” she said. This knowledge made her doctor visits a little less scary since she knew more about what to expect; although, her scientific knowledge didn’t completely arm her against the hardships that accompany cancer. “Understanding the science of everything wasn’t a problem for me, but going through the emotional portion of it was new to me,” she said. “Even though I had been around it a few years, I still didn’t un-

derstand the impact of what patients were truly going through.” Cancer, Steichen learned, teaches people to not take life for granted. “Life is too short to not make you happy, so the things that don’t make you happy, it is definitely time to let go of them,” she said. She learned to put her faith in what really matters, to make the most of each day and worry less about what might happen down the road. “Hearing the ‘C word’ is overwhelming no matter who you are and no matter what stage you’re at,” she said. “The people who are at Stage Zero or One are just as scared as those at Stage Four. Just take one day at a time and not think too far ahead because it gets too overwhelming.” Steichen waited two years before checking out the lump in her breast and now she knows that it is important to trust her own instincts. “If something doesn’t feel right, you really should get it checked out. I could have gone in to the breast clinic earlier,” she said. “I’m glad I went in when I did because it probably saved my life.” In spite of living with Stage Four breast cancer, Steichen doesn’t view her situation as discouraging. “Even though I am Stage Four and I still come in every three weeks, people think that is such a downer,” she said. “But I don’t look at it that way; I look at it like life.” She said the people who work in the infusion center have become like family to her. “I look at treatment like the very thing that’s keeping me alive,” she said. “Going in once every three weeks to do Herceptin is not a downer at all; it’s my lifeline.” Her doctor told her she should expect to continue this treatment indefinitely, as long as her heart can handle it. “I’m forced to have endurance with this,” she said. “That’s the funny thing—people see me out and about, I have my hair back. … They see me looking healthy, and they’re like, ‘Oh you’re still doing treatment?’ They don’t get it.” Steichen found the meaning of her first name to be fitting for what she has experienced in life. “Valorie means strong,” she explained. “You find out how strong you are when you are faced with things like this. You dig deep and get through it.”

Stride • October 2013

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Faith

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Terri Abbott How does one find the courage to face cancer three times? For Terri Abbott, the only way to endure it was through faith.


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bbott’s battle with cancer first began in 1997 when she was diagnosed with a benign meningioma brain tumor at 37 years old. That initial diagnosis was incorrect, however, as doctors discovered during surgery that the tumor, a schuanoma, was attached to the carotid artery and the optical nerve. “It was a pretty serious surgery, but my recovery was remarkable, according to the doctors,” Abbott said. “I returned to work and school much sooner than suggested.” Seven years later, two months after marrying her husband, Dan, Abbott found out through her annual mammogram that she had breast cancer. After hearing the results of the biopsies, Abbott and her husband stood in the parking lot of the Fargo Roger Maris Cancer Center and hugged each other, crying. “Then she put her foot down and said, ‘That’s it, I’m not going to let this get me down,’” Dan said, describing his wife’s reaction to her second diagnosis of cancer. It was Stage Zero noninvasive breast cancer, which required a lumpectomy, a second surgery within the week to obtain a clear margin, and six weeks of radiation treatment. The fear of reoccurrence is something that many cancer survivors must confront, but once Abbott had been cancer free for five years, she thought she was safe.“I probably had some issues in the back of my mind, but once I reached that five-year point, I thought I was good to go,” she said. Abbott had felt a lump in her breast, but she decided to wait two months until her mammogram to get it checked out. In September 2012, nearly eight years to the date after her second battle with cancer, Abbott was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma. “I was devastated,” she said, “mainly because I heard the word ‘invasive’ and I knew that meant a whole new treatment.” Abbott chose to do a bilateral mastectomy for preventative purposes. Then she went through two types of chemotherapy, 12 rounds total. But before she began treatment, Abbott and her husband took a trip to Disney World, the “happiest place on earth.” “That was one way we handled it together,” Dan said. “We’d be out there running around having fun, and all of a sudden we would look at each other, go back to the room, and just sit and hug and cry.” Together, they faced the realities of cancer.

Each encounter with cancer had its own challenges and fears for Abbott. “When I had my brain tumor, I was a single mom with three kids,” Abbott said. “Of course, the fear of leaving them without a parent to raise them … I think that was the biggest fear I had.” By the third encounter, Abbott was no longer a single mom, but the invasive cancer brought new challenges to her life. “This last cancer that I encountered, I knew was much more serious, and the whole idea of going through chemo was

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” frightful as well,” she explained. “And of course the whole I’m-going-to-lose-my-hair vanity kicked in. That first look at yourself without any breasts and the scarring, it just changes you dramatically. There were a lot of components to this last cancer that had the most long-term, life-changing effect on me.” An abundance of colds and flu circulating the community during the winter months kept Abbott isolated in her home during her last treatment. That meant not being around her six grandchildren, which was a big sacrifice Abbott had to make. “Sometimes I would sneak them into the garage in the car and they would roll their windows down so I could talk to them,” Abbott said, laughing. “But that was really the hardest thing for me.” Abbott said she would not have made it through her difficult journey with cancer without her husband Dan, her “rock.” He cried with her on her toughest days, and he never failed to accompany her to a doctor appointment while working full time. Although, he did earn the nickname “Nazi Nurse,” he joked. Family and friends also pulled Abbott and Dan through by bringing meals to their home four or five

times a week for three months. Other friends sent Abbott packages with gifts that she would open on bad days. Abbott also went through the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program the first time she had breast cancer, and she is going through it again now. “Trying new things through that program has been a lot of fun,” she said. Perhaps the most important thing that helped Abbott during her journey with cancer was her faith. She often relied upon a verse from Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” “God used my cancer to open doors as he introduced me to people who were hurting,” Abbott said. “As I spoke to them about the love of Christ … it was an enormous blessing to focus on someone else’s pain and see the joy of His salvation come to life. That is a constant reminder that He was and continues to be in control.” Abbott has lasting side effects from her treatment that serve as constant reminders of what she has gone through. She had lost most of her fingernails and toenails, she still struggles with extreme fatigue, she has lymphedema, she has neuropathy in her hands and feet, and she has carpal tunnel that was likely triggered by the neuropathy. “Those are constant physical reminders,” she said. “But just knowing that we conquered this is a mental success. It’s just like we climbed this mountain together.” Terri definitely did not go through cancer alone; her husband Dan was by her side every step of the way. “It’s not when Terri was diagnosed with cancer, it’s when we were diagnosed with cancer,” Dan said. “I’m sure people go through it alone, but I can’t imagine doing that. It totally affects both of us. … It totally puts you together as a team.” It may seem like Abbott had enough hard times by just having three occasions of cancer, but she also suffered complications with surgery, extreme sickness, and the death of Dan’s mother. If that wasn’t enough, during Abbott’s chemotherapy treatment, Dan was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. “There were many times that I would be asked the question: ‘You’ve been through so much already, when is it going to be enough?’” Abbott said, but she stayed positive. “There’s obviously something that God has to teach me through this, and I can be a witness to someone else.”

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Ben Cousins has faced many opponents on the wrestling mat, but none were so challenging as his match with adversity. By Josie Eyers

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n many ways, Cousins may seem like a typical college athlete: a student at Concordia College working toward a degree in nutrition and dietetics with a minor in coaching, who loves listening to ’90s music, hanging out with friends and staying active. But the things that make him seem typical make him incredible in light of what he has overcome. At two-and-a-half years old, Cousins was diagnosed with Autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Those who know him now might not even recognize him as the young boy who was often getting into trouble and constantly needing to be watched. When he was younger, keeping him safe required continual attention; he didn’t really feel pain like other kids. Sometimes he would charge at people when they knelt down to his level. He did not relate well with kids his own age, so social skills were difficult for him, too.

At school in Bloomington, MN, he dealt with challenges of learning and interacting with his peers. Multiple times, his peers would tell him that he was unable to succeed. He was the object of negative judgment, bullying and name-calling. Thankfully, he had the support of parents and other adults to assist him and confront his bullies. “I had others there to back me up, and that helped a lot,” Cousins said.

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“No matter win, lose or draw, you see yourself getting better in aspects of your repertoire and your performance.”

His mother, Kim Cousins, was instrumental in his ability to overcome these challenges of autism. “She didn’t give me special treatment, she just got on my level and talked to me and made me make eye contact with her — I’ve gotten better at that since then,” Cousins said. “My mom did a lot of things for me when I was younger that helped me be able to compete in the sport of wrestling. People in the (autism) spectrum usually don’t like to be touched and now it is getting better with me, but when I was younger, I couldn’t stand getting a drop of water on me.”

Know The FActs: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause “significant social, communication and behavioral challenges,” according to the Center for Disease Control. Children with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS) have problems in socialization, communication or restricted patterns of behaviors and interests, according to the National Mental Health & Education Center.

Kim, setting an example for how parents can help children with autism, had many unique methods of encouraging her son to overcome the difficulties of his disorder. She made a blanket that was filled with hard corn kernels and at night when Cousins couldn’t sleep, she would put the blanket over him so the pressure would make him feel better and familiarize him with the sensation of touch. She also did an exercise she called “joint therapy,” where she would compress then pull apart every joint in his body, which would help calm him down. To help improve his reading and comprehension, they would read the yellow pages together and sing the commercial jingles so he would remember them and make the connections. To help Cousins develop socially, Kim put him in a kids’ summer program through Bloomington Parks. At the time, the program was not prepared to take care of Cousins, so they had to hire a staff member to specifically make sure Cousins was kept safe. Now, coming full circle, Cousins works for Bloomington Parks and he is the one taking care of kids with disabilities. Next year, he might even be a staff leader for the program.

Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography Stride • October 2013

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Life-Changing Decisions

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hree key moments in Cousins’ life set him toward a path of achievement. The first was his mother’s decision to mainstream him into regular school classrooms. She did not set limitations for her son; she wanted him to have the same opportunities as other kids his age.

The summer before entering sixth grade, Cousins made his own momentous decision that ultimately led him to the sport of wrestling. “One night I stepped on the scale, kind of as a joke, and I saw that I weighed almost 200 pounds,” Cousins said. “I hadn’t done any sports be-

fore and I decided then and there I didn’t want to be the fat kid anymore. That summer I bought my own exercise bike and lost about 45 pounds. Starting off that year a little more confident, I figured I wanted to join my first sport and make some new friends.” He decided to join wrestling because his dad had been a wrestler, but he went into the sport thinking it was more like professional wrestling with extravagant body slams. “The first practice we did something called conditioning; I thought conditioning was cool down,” Cousins said. “No, it was ten sets of stairs along with a few other things and I kind of wanted to quit then and there. But

the fear of letting people down and not having connections is kind of what kept me going, and I just wanted to stick with something for once.” Indeed, Cousins not only stuck with the sport, but he became a nationally ranked wrestler. He was the sole captain of the team his junior and senior year of high school after other team members were caught drinking. He qualified for the national tournament four years in a row and he was ranked sixth in the nation for the 152-pound weight class his senior year. He grew to love the competitive aspect of the sport and the mental and physical rewards of hard work. “No matter win, lose or draw, you see yourself getting better in aspects of your repertoire and your performance,” Cousins said. “You don’t have the arrogance in wrestling that you have in other sports. It’s very humble. It fits my personality to a ‘T.’” Perhaps the moment that had the greatest influence on Cousins’ confidence and success was when he and his mother decided to be public about his autism. “We decided we weren’t going to be embarrassed about autism anymore,” Kim said. “He was starting to succeed in school and in wres-

tling. We had a long talk about (it) and we put it out there on TV and the local newspaper.” Once Cousins went public with his story of autism, other kids at school realized “he’s not weird, he has autism,” Kim said. His peers began to notice him and be friendlier toward him, to the point where he was elected Homecoming King his senior year. But he didn’t tell people about his autism to become popular; he wanted to help other people. “We thought he might be able to help other kids and give them hope that you don’t have to sit in your room and just play video games all day … you can put your mind to something and do it,” Kim said. Cousins encourages other kids who have autism to not let other people bring them down. He reminds them that they have special talents they might not even know about yet, but they will find them—just like he found wrestling. “When we put it out there, Ben started not being embarrassed about being an autistic kid. He started being proud of being an autistic kid,” Kim said. “Now he is like, ‘Yeah, I have autism, but you know what — it doesn’t define who I am.’”

“That’s my goal — just to inspire others and to let them know that everyone is special and you can achieve anything you want, as long as you put your mind to it.”

Stride • October 2013

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Finding His Own Way

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ow a sophomore at Concordia College, Cousins has one season of college wrestling under his belt. His first season, he won eight of 11 matches overall, but the season was not without its bumps and bruises. “Early on in the practice room, it was hard for me to see improvement just because I was getting my butt kicked. … Overall in the season, I feel like I got better throughout.” Concordia Assistant Wrestling Coach Clay Nagel explained that many freshman wrestlers struggle with maintaining their confidence upon entering a program filled with competitive upper classman. “Some can’t handle it, but Ben is dedicated to the sport. He kept getting better and his confidence started getting better too,” Nagel said. The highlight of his first season was beating an opponent he had lost to at the previous year’s state finals by sudden death. He beat his opponent in overtime and felt himself improving throughout the match. “That’s where I saw that if I keep this up and keep developing my confidence I know I can be good and I know one day I can be an All-American,” Cousins said. Cousins competes in the 157-pound

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weight class. “He’s going to have a lot of success at 157 this year just because of his sheer size and maturity, so we are pretty excited about where Ben’s going to be in his future,” Nagel said. Talent isn’t the only thing that Cousins has brought to the Concordia wrestling team. Cousins’ work ethic is one of his greatest attributes as a wrestler. “If we are running sprints, he never takes it easy; he gives everything he has for every activity,” Nagel said. “He gives 100 percent all the time. I would give an example, but it is every activity. … He’s a really good role model for our other wrestlers. Not only younger ones, but older ones; they don’t like to see a younger guy come in and show them up

so it makes them push harder, too.” Cousins also adds a unique aspect of diversity to the Concordia wrestling team with his challenges of autism, which has made the team more aware of autism and has made them better people, Nagel explained. His teammates view him as an equal — one of their peers. “I think they admire him, what he has gone through, and they understand the general education of autism,” Nagel said. “They understand the difficulties for a so-called normal person with average abilities and that Ben has to work a little harder to achieve the same things.” One of the challenges Cousins faces as being a part of the team is keeping his confidence and “keeping that focus that wrestling is not the end all to be all,” Cousins said. “It is going to prepare you for life. It’s helping prepare me for life and becoming a better person, and that’s what’s really important. That’s what I’ve really learned from Coach Clay and Matt Nagel (head coach) over this last year and a half.” He explained that wrestling has taught him what real hard work is like, how to relate to other people’s challenges and difficulties, and how to help others achieve their goals. Another challenge that comes with the college experience is keeping up the grades to be able to compete in wrestling. “Studying is always difficult for me,” he said. “Grades don’t come as easy to me as the typical Concordia student. … It’s really difficult for me because the normal student will read something once and then they will get it right away, where it will take me literally 10 to 15 times to even understand and get the concept of something.” Although Cousins still struggles with reading comprehension and social skills, he did not hesitate to get involved in

college life on campus when he came to Concordia. He was the student government freshman class representative last year, and this year he is working as a dormitory Resident Assistant. When things get tough, Cousins thinks about the positives and stays focused on the outcome he wants. He also relies on his mother, grandmother, friends and coaches for support. After college, Cousins hopes to be a youth wrestling coach. “I love working with kids. I feel like I can relate to them well because I’m a kid at heart, and I feel like I would be a really great teacher … being that coach who is really patient.” Coach Nagel has been a great role model for him, Cousins said. “On the first day I met him … I could tell he just connected with me really well. He cares about you as a person, and so does Matt,” he said. Cousins said he hopes he can inspire other young people who have autism. “Ben is kind of on the forefront of kids with autism who have actually been able to go on and live on their own and actually go to college and be successful in a sport like wrestling,” Kim said. “Most autistic kids actually hate being touched.” Last spring, Cousins spoke at the Ausome Gala, a fundraiser and awareness event for the North Dakota Autism Center, about the challenges he has faced with autism and how he used his experiences to help others. “That’s my goal — just to inspire others and to let them know that everyone is special and you can achieve anything you want, as long as you put your mind to it. No matter how slow or fast you do something, you can get it done with the proper support,” Cousins said.


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UP

Cycl ocross and Zach Johnson By Candice Grimm

As the summer ends and fall begins, Zach Johnson of Fargo is hard at work training for Cyclocross races.

Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

We caught up with Johnson at M.B. Johnson Park in Moorhead to learn about the sport and to get a few tips on how to train.

C

yclocross mixes the elements of road and mountain biking into one event. Races are an hour long and take place on a course that features a variety of elements: pavement, wooden trails, creek crossings, hills and other obstacles.

Johnson has been an avid biker his whole life but didn’t start Cyclocross racing until college. Since then, Johnson has participated in numerous events across the country including the Jingle Cross, a national level event located in Iowa City, Iowa.

“It’s been called the Steeplechase of biking. … the idea is basically to get from point A to point B as fast as you can by jumping over obstacles, going through fields, crossing creeks and more,” said Johnson. Stride • October 2013

43


Training “Basically, your training should reflect what a race would be like,” said Johnson. “Races are an hour long and allout intense.”

Equipment While there are specific Cyclocross bikes you can race with, Cyclocross is unique in the fact it does not require a specific type of bike to be used during events. “You can do Cyclocross with mountain bikes. A lot of people have mountain bikes so it’s easier to get into it that way,” said Johnson. “But once you start getting serious and competing at a high level, equipment definitely makes a difference.” Johnson uses a Cyclocross-specific bike to race. Other equipment used for the sport includes a full skin suit and mountain bike shoes. Johnson suggests traveling with two or three extra wheel sets with different treads on them for diverse terrains.

44

Stride • October 2013

Johnson suggests doing two or three hard days of training in a row, then resting for two or three days before repeating the cycle.

“It’s too hard to go out an hour as hard as you can every day. The body can’t take it,” said Johnson.

GETTING INVOLVED As for those who want to start Cyclocross, Johnson suggests two options. “For the extrovert, just show up for a ride, trial by fire. We ride out at M.B. Johnson a few nights a week,” said Johnson. “Another great way is to cook in with a local bike club, like the Great Plains Cycling Club.” Johnson said he, along with other riders, get excited when new people come and enjoy taking them under their wings while they learn. “Either way, just show up and do it or find someone that will help you do it.”


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Stride - October 2013  

This one's for the Fighters. The October 2013 issue of Stride focuses its attention on the stories of five Breast Cancer fighters. Janell Me...

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