Michele Reimer and Tina Kennis do not think of themselves as athletes, although they consistently compete in races and are currently training for a marathon.
Reimer and Kennis, both cancer survivors and black belts, met at karate five years ago. The duo began running together a year later.
Kennis was a breast cancer survivor for six years when Reimer was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010.
“We were running at the time,” she said, adding that they continue to run to keep their fitness level up and to “not let cancer get the best of us.”
And cancer has not gotten the best of Reimer or Kennis. Reimer is currently training for a Half Iron Man, a 1.2-mile swim, 56 -mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. Kennis is training for an Olympic Triathlon, a 0.9-mile swim, 25-mile bike and 10K run.
“I still don’t consider myself an athlete,” Reimer said. “To go from band geek to athlete at 40 years old, you don’t expect that.”
Through the running and racing, an idea was born—Surviving for Shore, a group committed to helping cancer survivors along with their family and friends achieve athletic goals through group workouts, motivational meetings and a presence at local races.
“There are so many cancer survivors out there that we run for,” Kennis said of her training with Reimer. They have done 12 mile runs in which each mile is dedicated to someone fighting cancer.
Surviving for Shore will represent that cancer is not a death sentence, Kennis said.
“Everyone has been impacted by cancer,” Reimer said. The group would be open to anyone who has been impacted by any form of the disease.
“(Cancer) can make you stronger if you let it,” Kennis said. “We let it make us stronger.”
A cancer diagnosis for Kennis meant a second chance at life, she said. From then on, she made an effort to lead a healthier mind, body and spirit.
“Physically, we’re stronger than we’ve ever been,” she said. Kennis has been in remission for nine years.
The intention of Reimer and Kennis, both Lacey residents, through Surviving for Shore is to inspire those locals impacted by cancer to get active, whether it be through biking, swimming, running, kayaking, hiking, zumba, martial arts or other activities.
“We know running’s not for everybody,” Kennis said. She and Reimer would work with participants, catering to different activity levels. For example, a couch to 5K program.
“We’re definitely looking to help people get outside,” Reimer said. “We really want to demonstrate there’s really a way to live your life after cancer in a strong, positive way.”
Reimer and Kennis have been very supportive of one another.
“That’s been huge,” Kennis said, adding that they both have the same passion and enthusiasm for fitness and life.
“I feel very lucky to have found Michele,” Kennis said. Reimer reciprocated.
The duo hopes Surviving for Shore will provide the same kind of support system for those who participate.
“As a cancer survivor, you learn that there are things 100 percent in your control,” Kennis said. Survivors can control their health, eating and fitness.
“That’s what we’re going to do,” she said. “It’s more than surviving. It's thriving. It’s more than just getting through it. It’s coming out better.”
A kick off for Surviving for Shore will be Wednesday, March 13 at 6:31 p.m. at Forever Young Nursery School. A Red Cross Certified babysitter will provide free childcare.
The event will feature a guest speaker from the Cancer Concerned Center in Point Pleasant. Surviving for Shore will be affiliated with the nonprofit organization, which supports the needs of cancer patients and families.