By Josh Whitener
Losing her 14-year-old daughter, Kalen, to cancer in 2008 changed Kim Frizzell’s world forever. But in spite of the pain and loss she still feels, the Matthews mom is stepping up to help make a difference for other families facing pediatric cancer.
Frizzell was one of 28 people – including several other Matthews and Mint Hill residents – who participated in CureSearch’s regional Ultimate Hike on Saturday, June 1.
The annual event – a 28.3-mile hike along the Foothills Trail in North and South Carolina – raises money for CureSearch, the national nonprofit that supports pediatric cancer research. Each participant is required to raise at least $2,500 to participate.
The hike begins at about 4:30 a.m. near Sloan Bridge at South Carolina’s Table Rock State Park and follows the Foothills Trail to Oconee State Park.
This year was the first time Frizzell participated in the hike and said it was “by far the most challenging physical experience” she’s ever tackled. She spent some time preparing for the hike by walking through Squirrel Lake Park and areas of downtown Matthews, working out to “Insanity” DVDs and completing a 12-mile hike at Crowder’s Mountain. But because she has two adolescent sons, she wasn’t able to put in as much training time as she would have liked, she said.
About four and a half miles into the hike, she injured her left knee during one of the trail’s descents. Although she said it was “excruciatingly painful,” she kept going, carrying a picture of Kalen to remind her why she was hiking.
“I thought of everything my daughter had been through, all the pain she had been through,” Frizzell said. “I didn’t care if I had to crawl across the finish line; I was going to make it there.”
Not only was the hike physically demanding, it was emotionally intense as well. May 27 marked the fifth anniversary of Kalen’s death, and her 2008 funeral was held on June 1 – the same date as the hike.
Along the trail, just before the finish line, CureSearch displays photographs of participants’ children who’ve lost their battle with cancer. When Frizzell saw Kalen’s picture, she was overcome with emotion. But though there were plenty of tears shed along the way – particularly at the finish line – Frizzell said the hike gave her the opportunity to heal like never before.
“No matter what I’m doing at the time, I can’t forget the date” of her daughter’s funeral, Frizzell said. “I can’t forget the significance of it. So doing this hike on Saturday, that was the first time (the date) meant something good for me. I was doing it for Kalen, and that brought a lot of healing and let me know no matter what, she’s always there. Her presence is always with me.”
For Matthews resident Amy McKelvey, who lost her daughter, Emily Rose, to cancer in 2008, the hike also was a time of healing. McKelvey participated last year for the first time and chose to return this year. However, this time was different – not only because she was “at the top of (her) game” and found the hike to be less difficult – but also because she spent more time hiking alone.
“I spent a lot of time alone this year as opposed to last year,” McKelvey said. “It gave more time to reflect on why I was there, why I was doing what I was doing… It was probably healing for me.”
Susie Alpert, a dental hygienist at Mint Hill Dentistry, also participated at the urging of Dr. Earle Sullivan, one of the dentists at the practice. Although Alpert doesn’t have a child who’s battled cancer, the mere thought of losing a child to the disease, along with her spirit that’s “always trying to help people,” drove her to participate, she said.
“I’m 53 years old, there’s not one athletic bone in my body, but I just said, ‘You know what? I’m gonna do it,’” Alpert said.
She added she also was driven after learning 1 in 6 children diagnosed with cancer don’t survive.
“I don’t want anybody to have that experience” of losing a child, she said. “If there’s something I can do to change those odds, I’m gonna do it.”
For more information on how you can help fight pediatric cancer, go to www.curesearch.org.