MILWAUKEE (WITI) — If laughter could kill tumors, Sarah Kaehny wouldn’t need chemotherapy.
For the last two years, she’s made the serious business of fighting for her life, almost into a party. FOX6 met Sarah at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Care Center Translational Research Unit, where she was cracking jokes with the staff.
Sarah documents her chemo trial at Froedtert with a web show she calls ‘Chemo Cam.’
That Sarah is able to laugh, and put smiles on the faces of others, is remarkable when you consider she’s fighting the same rare cancer that took her dad’s life in 2003.
“His quality of life was so deteriorated by it and I just thought, ‘I would like my family and friends to have a different experience with sarcoma than that. Because it was so tough to see what he went through,” said Sarah.
For Sarah, it all started with a tumor the size of a baseball on her upper leg. She had surgery to remove the tumor and radiation, but the cancer spread.
Dr. John Charlson showed FOX6 the grapefruit sized tumor that formed on Sarah’s right lung.
“That was a pretty hard time. She was struggling to get these things treated … and they would come back pretty aggressively,” said Dr. Charlson, medical oncologist at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Sarah went to Northwestern University in Chicago for a lobectomy. Surgeons removed the entire upper lobe of her right lung.
“Our concern would be, if you lose some of your lung, your lung function, your ability to exercise, your ability to breathe well, would be diminished,” said Dr. Charlson.
Sarah says being unable to exercise wasn’t an option. She owned a gym and competed in half marathons and mini triathlons.
Sarah pushed through the pain. She enrolled in a chemo drug trial while simultaneously teaching fitness classes.
Sarah says she can’t breathe as easily as she used to, and has pain in her leg. Even so, just six months after her lobectomy she finished the Oshkosh Mini Triathlon.
“I just wanted to cross the finish line. I didn’t care what my time was,” said Sarah.
Sarah says her sarcoma treatment is different than her dad’s, and is actually pretty mild. It also helps she’s a firm believer in mind over body. These days she feels good about her prognosis.
“I had something like a five percent chance of outliving five years after diagnosis. Two and a half years in, I’m nearly cancer free,” said Sarah.
She’s not finished setting new fitness goals either. On Saturday, July 19th, she was getting ready for the Scenic Shore 150 Mile Bike Tour to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphona Society.
The symbolism of Sarah pedaling into the sunrise, instead of the sunset, was not lost of her.
“You feel the power of being alive and surviving” said Sarah.
Sarah is in the maintenance phase of her chemo trial. She was able to finish the Scenic Shore 150 with issue and continues redefining what it means to be a ‘cancer survivor.’