When Valorie Kondos Field learned she had breast cancer, one of her first thoughts was her students. As the former head coach of the UCLA Gymnastics Team, she wanted to use her experience to educate others.
“Immediately I thought, ‘What an amazing teaching moment for my student athletes,’” she said.
What she did next was unorthodox, but she believed was necessary. She let her students feel her malignant tumor.
“I realized this was an opportunity to educate. While I was nervous the head of HR was going to come in screaming with sirens telling me I’m fired – for me, it didn’t matter. That moment was so important for them,” she said.
Throughout her treatments, Valorie continued to coach. She didn’t want to let her diagnosis interfere with her passion for remaining a role model for her student athletes.
“By coming into work every day, I showed my students that cancer was a small part of my life and a small part of my day. It wasn’t my whole life and day – and it certainly didn’t define me,” she said.
Today, Valorie is in remission. Her cancer was HER2-positive and she credits targeted therapy for her successful treatment. It’s an outcome she values deeply as she watched her mother die from colon cancer.
“When I was diagnosed, I went into a panic,” she said. “My oncologist explained had I been diagnosed a decade earlier there would have been limited treatment options for my type of cancer.”
This changed her outlook about her diagnosis.
“I was invigorated that I was living through a time where targeted therapy was available for people in my position,” she said. “It was my ‘aha’ moment where I saw that every dollar given to research saves lives,” she said.
Valorie maintains a strong belief in the power of research for giving her the opportunity to thrive.
“Research is the reason I’m alive.”
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