The first time Kara Baylor was diagnosed with breast cancer was in April 2016. She was treated at Aurora Cancer Care in Racine.
“I had chemotherapy and radiation. Dr. Michael Mullane was my physician. He is wonderful. His whole staff was great, and the chemotherapy nurses were so kind and supportive,” she said. “Everything seemed to be going fine.”
Dr. Mullane told Kara about Team Phoenix, a 14-week fitness and research program that helps cancer survivors regain overall health and wellness by training for a sprint triathlon. She decided to join the 2017 team.
“Team Phoenix is a unique sisterhood of women who have all shared the experience of having cancer and pushing yourself to do something you might not have otherwise done. We’ll be forever connected – no matter what year we participated.”
In 2018, Kara suffered a life-threatening episode of heart failure. She credits Team Phoenix for her survival.
“I believe my training is what kept me alive. I’ve always been physically active, but I believe the exercise regimen I continued after my training saved my life,” she shared. “I probably shouldn’t even be alive today.”
A devastating diagnosis
In December 2020, Kara started having problems with her right hip.
“It turned out the cancer had returned, and this was my body’s way of letting me know it had spread to my bones. I ended up in the hospital, and the scans showed cancer from my pelvis, through my spine and into my skull.”
Kara is now fighting stage IV cancer – but not without a strong network of family and friends at her side. Not knowing what she’d be facing in the coming months, they set up a GoFundMe and raised thousands of dollars to help cover meals and other expenses.
As a thank you to everyone who donated, Kara threw a party. A friend who’s a brewer crafted a special pilsner in her honor.
“I don’t even drink beer,” she laughed. “So, we served it at the party as a fundraiser and donated the proceeds to support Team Phoenix. I wanted to do something to pay it forward and lift up this fabulous program.”
Kara’s event raised $2,200 to support Team Phoenix.
“I tell everyone I can about Team Phoenix. It’s worth every hot, sweaty day of training to do this program. There were women on my team who had never ridden a bike, never swam laps, let alone in open water. There were people in the midst of active treatment. I was so in awe of my teammates.”
You can support women like Kara
Team Phoenix is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The program, along with other cancer survivorship initiatives, are only possible through the generosity of donors.
“Once you’re part of Team Phoenix, you’re always a part of it. We’re all cancer survivors, but then there are people like me who end up with stage IV cancer and people we love who pass away. Sometimes it feels like we’re held together by grief,” shared Kara. “We know how precious life is. These are women who make the most of every day they have. It makes these women so special.”