When Kate’s niece died of cardiac arrest at the age of 28, Kate was in shock. Her niece had been one of her best friends, and they’d gone on a trip to Las Vegas together just six weeks before. After emerging from her shock and grief, Kate took a step back to examine her life. She knew she had to make some changes. Her niece had been relatively healthy, and Kate was anything but. She’d been diagnosed with a slew of medical conditions including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and degenerative disk disease. How could Kate make sure that she didn’t end up dying early, too?
"I was 350 or 360 pounds and decided it was time to change," Kate remembers. "I was tired of being tired." So, Kate took some first steps. She joined Weight Watchers through work, and she began walking. She’d try to go three or four times a week, starting slow but pushing through three miles each time. Because she’s competitive by nature, entering races was her next step. After months of hard work, Kate ended up crossing the finish line at multiple 5K and 10K walks, including the Rip City Race for the Roses and Portland to Coast. She’s even served as team captain for the American Heart Association Heart & Stroke Walk for five years.
Though her niece’s death was what motivated her to change, it was after her father’s five-bypass open heart surgery that Kate realized being healthy isn’t only about lifestyle—it’s about advocating for yourself as a patient. Her father had experienced chest pains for several years before his surgery, and a year later, Kate started to have chest pains as well. She immediately went to her doctor and told him there was something wrong.
"I think deep down, we all know when you have to push," Kate says, describing how she pressed her doctor for a stress test and EKGs. When the tests came back normal, Kate tried medications to stop the chest pains, and when these didn’t work, Kate and her doctor decided on an angiogram. Although generally not performed without a cardiac event, Kate insisted—and it saved her life. They found 95% blockage in one of her main arteries.
The doctors put a stent in, and Kate was on blood thinners for a year, but she never forgets how important it is to advocate for yourself and work with a doctor you trust: “I think finding a medical professional that you can partner with is probably the biggest thing."
What does Live Fearless mean to Kate? She defines it as pushing forward and not being afraid of your next step—whether it’s getting out of bed in the morning or committing to a race. According to Kate, living fearless is also about being able to see past circumstances that might seem dire. "If I looked at my genetics, I’d just crawl into a hole," Kate says. "But you have to choose your own path. Just doing nothing isn’t going to get you there."
Sometimes Kate’s mother asks her why she continues to participate in walks, especially knowing Kate suffers from chronic arthritis pain in her hips, spine and back. Kate has a fearless answer: "The feeling that you get when you cross that finish line? It’s unreal."