The Vikings and American Cancer Society teamed up to host the eighth annual Crucial Catch Luncheon.
The Vikings during Sunday's game against the Cardinals are supporting the fight against cancer as part of the NFL's "Crucial Catch" campaign.
The NFL and American Cancer Society (ACS) have evolved the campaign to address early detection and risk-reduction efforts for multiple cancers, and the Vikings honored a number of cancer survivors and patients at the annual Vikings Crucial Catch Luncheon that took place Tuesday at Mystic Lake.
The Vikings also hosted these individuals to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in August, where the group was able to take in a training camp practice and meet several players. Following the team's practice, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph surprised the group by inviting them to attend the Cardinals game.
Below are stories of the 13 individuals who will be honored as special guests at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Rebecca Rousseau | Colon/Rectal & Cervical Cancer
A self-identified "sports mom," Rebecca is happily kept busy supporting her two sons and a daughter at their respective activities. Rebecca was first diagnosed with Stage 3 colon-rectal cancer in September 2014 and underwent six weeks of radiation, six weeks of chemo and an extensive surgery to remove lymph nodes. Two years later, the cancer returned locally in Rebecca's sacrum, making it harder to treat and contain, and in June doctors discovered cancerous nodes in her lung.
"Just be strong. Have a good support system. Don't hide away. It's easy to think you have to deal with your pain in silence, and you don't."
– Rebecca on what she would tell someone fighting a similar battle
Kim Koth | Pancreatic Cancer
Kim was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003, upon which she underwent a double mastectomy and was declared cancer-free. In 2015, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and underwent a 17-hour surgery followed by nine months of chemo – she calls it the "best day of her life" when she was once again declared cancer-free. In July of 2017, however, Kim's doctors discovered she was now battling Stage 4 pancreatic cancer with lesions on her liver. Kim is undergoing chemotherapy treatments every other week, which has been shrinking the tumors.
"I always have the attitude that I'm going to make it, and I think that has helped me. I still golf in a women's golf league, I travel, I go places. It's just very important that you live your life and surround yourself with positive people. And those positive people will help to bolster you and keep you going."
– Kim on maintaining a positive attitude
Kim Disch | Breast Cancer
At 37 years old and the day before her daughter's third birthday, Kim was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer after mentioning at a routine physical that she was experiencing a twinging sensation. She underwent surgery three weeks later and is now being treated endocrine therapy to prevent a return of cancer. Kim is an avid proponent of early screenings and raising awareness through the American Cancer Society.
"After you go through a cancer [experience] either yourself or with your family, it just kind of changes you. You feel like you need to do something, like something good has to come out of it. It was actually my sisters who first signed up, registered us to walk. Our team was amazing last year. I was shocked at what we accomplished."
– Kim on her involvement with ACS and the Relay for Life
Carolyn Hardy-Best | Colon & Cervical Cancer
Carolyn first battled cancer in 1996 when she underwent emergency surgery for Stage 4 colon cancer, followed by six rounds of chemotherapy and then radiation. She said it was "overwhelming" to learn more recently that she had cervical cancer and to start the fight again. Carolyn points to her family's support, however, and says she enjoys "beating the odds."
"I want to live until the day I die, not just exist. I'm very active in the community; I do a lot of things with the American Cancer Society, [including] the walks. I'm just proud to be a survivor – that's why I wear my [ACS] shirts nearly every day. I'm blessed. I'm blessed, and I'm pleased to be here."
– Carolyn on beating cancer for the second time
Grant Haar | Pediatric Cancer – Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney
Grant was a diagnosed with Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney at 7 months old, when doctors discovered a tumor the size of his head in his abdomen. After having surgery to remove the tumor, eight months of chemotherapy and eight days of radiation, Grant was considered cancer-free. Now 13 years old, Grant is heavily involved with ACS and walks with a team named in his honor, The Miracle Grant-ers.
"It's huge for me because nobody should have to watch their baby go through that. We dared not even ream that he would get to be 13. Every time he goes off to a new year of school, it just makes me cry. And to know that the NFL was including all different kinds of cancers, we were so excited. Pediatric cancers especially don't get a lot of focus … and very little funding is available."
– Grant's mother, Stefani, on the NFL's "Crucial Catch" campaign
Kelton Kent | Prostate Cancer
A two-time cancer survivor, Kelton defeated kidney cancer at age 34 and almost two years ago underwent treatment for prostate cancer, which runs heavily in his family. Kelton is now committed to spreading awareness and promoting early screenings, particularly to the African-American men. He participated with a men's health symposium this past year and is also involved with speaking to church groups in addition to involvement with ACS and a number of nonprofits.
"I made myself a promise, and I had also made a promise to the Lord, that if He spared my life, I would share my story. … With prostate cancer, most of us [in the] African-American population are dying at a 34-38 percent rate, more than any other ethnic group. So that's what I decided. I thought, 'You know, whatever I can do to save someone else's life, that's what I'm going to do.' "
– Kelton on his commitment to ACS and promotion of early screenings
Kelly Leibold | Brain Cancer
In 2016, 21-year-old Kelly began experiencing persistent nausea that she initially associated with adjusting to significant life changes. Instead, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor in the right cerebellum of Kelly's brain. She underwent brain surgery, a month of proton-beam radiation, then four months' worth of chemotherapy treatments. Technically now cancer free, Kelly continues to deal with some physical symptoms but is active in the community and serves as the director of the Pine Island Area Chamber of Commerce. She also is involved with a cancer support group in Rochester, Minnesota.
"I think it's so great that the Minnesota Vikings are looking to increase awareness because a lot of people you meet just don't really understand what you're going through. … To increase this awareness is to make more people aware that cancer exists, and it gives me more opportunities, and he's other cancer patients, more opportunities to relate and connect with someone, as we all desire to do."
Jeff Mader | Kidney Cancer
Just over a year ago, it was discovered that Jeff had kidney cancer, which was causing blood clots in his leg that resulted in a pulmonary embolism. He immediately was hospitalized on put on blood thinner, and a month later Jeff had his kidney removed. Despite only a 1-in-4 chance of the cancer returning, in Jeff's case it did come back in his lungs in June. He is grateful for early detection and remains optimistic about next steps.
"I really like Adam Thielen. Both he and I went to the 'Harvard of the Midwest,' which is [Minnesota State University – Mankato]. I went many, many years before he did, but I think he's a great story. I think he's a guy who's beaten the odds many times in his career, came from a really small outstate school, played at Mankato and now here he is, a Pro Bowl player in the NFL. I think he's a great inspiration."
– Jeff on his Vikings fandom and support of WR Adam Thielen
Mary Nehring | Lung Cancer
After losing her brother to lung cancer in 2011, it was discovered that Mary also had lung cancer. Forty-five days after her diagnosis, Mary underwent surgery, during which doctors found additional cancer in her lymph nodes and started four rounds of chemotherapy. Mary is now happily celebrating seven years of being cancer-free.
"I've been a lifelong Vikings fan. From the early 60s when they came to Minnesota, and Bud Grant and Purple People Eaters, I remember [watching them] at Met Stadium. … Minnesota fans are the most stalwart. They support their Vikings through thick and thin. … I will bleed Purple for the rest of my life. They are a fantastic role model, and Sundays in the fall are the best."
– Mary on her commitment to the Vikings
Bryan Rause | Ocular Melanoma
During a routine eye exam last May, it was discovered that Brian had a large, cancerous tumor in his left eye. After undergoing treatment in Boston, Brian is currently doing well.
"Your family is very important when somebody sits you down in a room and tells you that you have cancer. … My mom has been there for every appointment, sat in waiting rooms for hours all over this country. So it's helped our relationship greatly. The people at American Cancer Society have been amazing. Every opportunity to do something with them, I say 'yes' because you're going to meet some amazing people who make mountains move for people with cancer."
– Brian on his support system during a battle with cancer
Monica Theis | Breast Cancer
Monica first battled cancer at age 19, when she defeated Stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Twelve years later in 2004, Monica was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer and went through a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. In 2011, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer and went through the same treatment process, but in 2015 the cancer returned as Stage 4. Currently considered fairly stable, Monica is undergoing targeted medication therapy.
"Just the fact that I wake up every day and that I'm upright and breathing and still able to enjoy life – I think focusing on those little daily things, whether it's going for ice cream in the evening or looking at pretty flowers, as silly as it seems. Sometimes sitting back and taking those moments, and just taking a breath, is very fulfilling. Other than that, it's time with your family and friends and just filling it with easy, happy things."
– Monica on filling her "bucket of hope" on a daily basis
Lindsay Conroy | Liver Cancer
At 12 years old, Lindsay was diagnosed with Crohn's disease as well as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare, long-term progressive disease of the liver. PSC causes chronic impairment of bile flow due to blockage and dysfunctional bile transport (cholestasis), which results in progressive biliary fibrosis and ultimately biliary cirrhosis and liver failure. Due to her diagnosis, Lindsay was at a higher risk for a number of cancers.
Her Crohn's disease went into remission, and Lindsay enjoyed a relatively normal high school experience, during which she was active in track-and-field. However, she began experiencing a recurrence of symptoms and was hospitalized with a serious liver infection in 2010, nine years after her initial diagnosis. Over the next several years, Lindsay's quality of life gradually deteriorated; she was forced to stop attending college and could work only 10 hours a week. In 2014, she developed osteoporosis and began physical therapy in an attempt to regain strength.
While waiting on a liver transplant, Lindsay was told that doctors had found a mass on her liver, which later was diagnosed as hepatic carcinoma. On Sept. 6, 2017, Lindsay underwent surgery for a partial liver transplant thanks to her brother-in-law, T.J., who volunteered to be a living donor.
Lindsay says she "owes her life" to T.J. and has a renewed outlook on her future.
Pam Olson | Colon Cancer
Pam was diagnosed with colon cancer in June of 2005 and underwent surgery as well as chemotherapy treatments that concluded in December of that year. During that time, Pam also discovered that she, her mother and her sister all had the breast cancer gene mutation. Because of this, Pam decided to have a prophylactic double mastectomy and also had her ovaries removed.
Currently working as an elementary school office coordinator in Woodbury, Pam is a lifelong Vikings fan who usually makes it to at least one game each season and enjoys watching the others on TV.
NOTE: Pam is unable to attend Sunday's game.