Spokane Journal of Business

Deer Park breast cancer survivor spotlighted in national campaign

Kaps cites exercise as key to remaining cancer free

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-—Kevin Blocker
Jackie Kaps, 55, has been selected by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Mizuno Sports as a representative in the #ProjectZero national fundraising campaign.

Jackie Kaps believes in running from problems. Well, at least when the problem is breast cancer.

“I work, and I train, because if I stop, then cancer wins,” says the 55-year-old Deer Park woman who has been cancer free for three years.

For her effort and inspiration to others, Mizuno Sports and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation have selected Kaps to represent #ProjectZero, a national fundraising campaign for breast cancer research and discovery as part of October’s national breast cancer awareness month.

Mizuno and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation are using survivors such as Kaps to highlight their stories and showcase the role sports play in transforming lives affected by cancer.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to preventing and finding a cure for breast cancer. Atlanta-based Mizuno USA Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mizuno Corp., one of the largest specialty sporting goods manufacturers in the world. 

As recently as six years ago, Kaps says she smoked between a pack to two packs of cigarettes per day and was considered obese.

“I come from a family of seven where everyone smoked,” says Kaps, who moved to Deer Park from her home state of Oklahoma in 2005. “I started smoking when I was 14.”

Kaps says she’s also from a family in which most members have battled obesity as well. Before he died, a brother of hers weighed as much as 510 pounds. Before her father died in 2006 at age 66, he was a long-haul truck driver who smoked four packs a day. Her family also has a history of breast cancer.

Kaps moved to Deer Park to take care of her parents. She says her dying mother told her, “‘Jackie, you don’t want to die like this. What’s going to happen to you when I’m gone?’’’

Kaps says she promised her mother that she’d stop smoking and start living a healthier lifestyle.

Her mother died in September of 2011, and Kaps smoked her last cigarette on Dec. 28, 2011, and gradually started running.

She went to a Spokane Fleet Feet store hungry for information about how to get fit. Through Fleet Feet, she joined a “No Boundaries” running group and found a home among the running community.

She participated in her first Bloomsday in 2012, and thereafter, quickly developed a passion for running, something she would’ve never believed.

The decision to quit smoking, start running, and overhaul her diet served her well when in October 2013 she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. After her diagnosis, she continued to run.

When she first began running, in order to build her conditioning, Kaps ran for a minute and then walked for next two to four minutes so as to not overexert her body.

It was during her second round of chemotherapy, however, for the first time in her life, Kaps ran a full mile without having to stop or walk. In March of 2014, she underwent a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

Kaps, a registered nurse at Providence Holy Family Hospital, is currently training for an Ironman event in Tempe, Ariz., as well as the Portland Marathon, she says.

She says her new lifestyle is what helped her fend off breast cancer.

“I just remember believing so strongly that I wouldn’t let breast cancer dictate and take control of my life. Exercise gives you control over your body and abilities,” Kaps says.

“And besides, I made a promise to my mother to get healthy,” she says.

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