After having pulled what she considers “the short stick,” seven-year breast cancer survivor Kat Caillier, of Breaux Bridge, has focused much of her energy on educating others in Acadiana about the disease.
“You can’t live in the negative,” Caillier said. “I try to live in the positive at all times. Sure, there are times when I’d get antsy, but you get through it. What will be will be.”
As the 2015 Race for the Cure honoree and Team New Balance honorary member for the annual Susan G. Komen Acadiana Race for the Cure in Lafayette, Caillier has devoted her time since 2011 to bring awareness to the cause by raising more than $30,000 to help educate and aid women across Acadiana.
Michelle Voss, communication director and grants administrator for Komen Acadiana, praised the efforts of Caillier’s team. Caillier, Voss noted, “is the very heart and soul” of the team.
Caillier’s crew, which donated about $20,000 just last year, was nationally acknowledged with an Outstanding Volunteer Group Award, Voss said.
Caillier’s own experience with cancer started with the discovery of a kernel-sized lump above her right breast late one night while watching television.
“I was just sitting in a chair one night, raising my arm and checking like you’re supposed to, and I felt something,” she said. “So I checked the other side, but it didn’t have it.”
Caillier said she knew she had breast cancer before the doctor could even confirm it. But instead of succumbing to negative emotions, she said, she felt ready to take on the challenge.
What had caused the growth, she explained, was years of taking hormones after a hysterectomy. However, of the 14 lymph nodes removed, only one tested positive. Caillier’s lucky number is 13.
To her amazement, she was given a chance to take Femera, a pill used to treat breast cancer in postmenopausal women, to avoid chemotherapy’s severe effects on the body.
“Honestly, she was the rock with such a positive attitude,” said childhood friend Cheryl Courville. “She took it like a champ, and she kind of helped us along.”
Courville said seeing what her friend went through has made her more aware of what could be and also has her approaching the subject often with her own daughters.
For the 2011 Race for the Cure, the cancer survivor’s family members and friends gathered at Girard Park — without Caillier’s knowledge — to show their support.
Last year, Caillier and her daughter, Dawn Johnson, created a fundraiser that would capture the attention of many local football fans — a football pool. Through a $10 pool and a $20 pool, they were able to donate $1,500 to Komen.
After seeing how much money could be raised, Caillier and her race team then created the “Rai$ing Mud for the Cure” mud ride fundraiser at Mudbugs Mudpark in Breaux Bridge.
The entrance fee was $20 a person, and more than 900 people attended.
“On Sunday, I counted the money and counted the money and counted the money,” Caillier said. “I brought in a check for $15,000. We sold almost $4,000 worth of food, T-shirts” and other items.
The team has organized another mud-riding fundraiser that will take place at Mudslide Mudpit in Arnaudville on Saturday, April 18.
Now that I know what the fundraising money goes for, I feel like I’m paying it forward,” Caillier said. “For every hundred dollars we can turn in, it covers one person’s mammogram.”
Twenty-five percent of the race’s registration fees go back to researching a cure, while the other 75 percent stays within the Acadiana community.
Caillier advised those who don’t have health insurance to visit Dr. Gary Matthews at the Breast Center of Acadiana, who provides free mammograms one Saturday each month.
On Saturday, during the Race for the Cure event in Lafayette, Caillier and her team will be selling raffle tickets for $5 for a variety of prizes. The team also will sell jambalaya and jewelry.
“I just feel wonderful, knowing that (my family and friends) are all behind me, because without them, I wouldn’t be here,” Caillier said. “I think they are all catching the fever of paying back and paying forward.”