Kendall Reimer ran the Lincoln Half-Marathon on May 3rd, 2015. The 24-year-old opera singer had to overcome a lot of obstacles just to get to the starting line. Kendall’s family has experienced devastating losses to both Pancreatic Cancer and Ewing’s Sarcoma. Kendall has a heart condition which actually caused her heart to stop beating in 2014. She had to be revived via CPR at the hospital. Yet none of these things could stop Kendall from running. She ran her first half-marathon just weeks after having heart surgery, and recently ran her second with the Project Purple Lincoln Half-Marathon team.
Kendall was born with a heart condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. This condition creates extra electrical pathways for the heart and can lead to periods of rapid heart rates. Kendall’s heart would sometimes race to 150-200 beats per minute. As a child, she took medication to keep her heart rate under control. She has had to undergo two cardiac ablations, most recently when she was a 19-year-old college student. A cardiac ablation is a procedure where a flexible tube is inserted directly into the heart. The tube destroys the tissue in the heart that is responsible for the abnormal heart rate. After her second ablation, Kendall began noticing that her heart rate seemed to slow down significantly. She had very little energy and was sleeping more than usual. A cardiologist recommended that Kendall get a pacemaker.
Kendall went to the hospital and had a pacemaker inserted into the upper chamber of her heart. The procedure went well, but as she was preparing to leave the hospital she had a strange sensation take over her body. She remembers saying, “My body feels weird.” She woke up some time later to find 20 nurses and doctors calling her name and working on her. Her heart had completely stopped beating. For 10 seconds, her medical team was unable to get a signal. They performed CPR on Kendall and were miraculously able to revive her. Kendall says, “Luckily I was still hooked up to the heart rate monitor. If it had happened five minutes later, they may not have found me in time to save me.” Kendall went back into surgery and had a full pacemaker placed into her heart.
Kendall had been training for the Omaha half-marathon prior to the heart problems. She had her pacemaker put in approximately six weeks before the race. When she found out that the race would not issue a refund for her race entry fee, she decided she would attempt to finish the race. As soon as she was able, Kendall went to the gym and walked on the treadmill. When she was able to run, she squeezed in a run before work and a run in the evening. Kendall trained for just two-and-a-half weeks. When September came, she ran the half and enjoyed every minute of it.
Kendall regained her health as the months went on. She knew she wanted to run the Lincoln Half-Marathon in May, 2015, but somehow she missed the registration. She knew there would be a possibility that she could still enter the race via a charity slot. As she looked up information on the Lincoln Marathon website, she learned about Project Purple, which was the only charity partner for the marathon. She decided that she would run with the charity for her second half-marathon. Kendall had a personal connection to Pancreatic Cancer, having lost her great Aunt Carole to the disease. Kendall recalls, “It happened so fast. She never really had a chance at surviving.”
Kendall’s family has been touched by cancer on more than one occasion. When Kendall was a teenager, her older brother, Andy Fluhart, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma.
Andy was a student at University of Missouri. He felt a lump in his chest which turned out to be a tumor the size of a football. Andy became very ill very quickly, eventually ending up on life support in the hospital intensive care unit. By some miracle, Andy recovered and his cancer went into remission. He returned to school and soldiered on with his life-like nothing had happened. He was nominated Homecoming King that fall. Unfortunately, Andy was not feeling well during Homecoming week. He went to the doctor and it was discovered that his cancer had returned with a vengeance. It was spreading so quickly, the doctors could not determine how extensively it had traveled throughout his body. Andy started on chemotherapy, but his condition declined rapidly. He returned from college to his childhood home where he could receive hospice care. Kendall remembers how she, her mom and hospice tended to her brother as a team. She was only 15 years old when her beloved brother Andy passed away. She says, “It was difficult on multiple levels. When you are 15, you are going through so much awkwardness. His illness brought me quickly out from that teenage angst. I learned so much from my brother during that time.”
Kendall’s personal experience with cancer provided the inspiration she needed to run with the Project Purple team. She had never run with a charity team before and was not sure what to expect, but she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She feels that finding and becoming part of the team was meant to be. Kendall attended the team dinner the night before the race. She says, “I had a great time. The dinner gathering was amazing and I cannot say enough how proud I am to be on the team.”
The half-marathon itself was fun for Kendall. She explains, “It is awesome to run with so many people. Wearing the Project Purple tank top and having the crowds cheering for you is so amazing! I saw lots of people I know either running or volunteering. Our team always talked about giving meaning to our miles. Any time I got tired, I would see someone out there who was with Project Purple and that made me keep going. It was a constant reminder to keep pushing myself.”
Kendall will be moving to Texas in August to attend graduate school. She will be taking with her many fond memories of her time in Lincoln, and of her weekend with the Project Purple Lincoln Marathon team. You can still support Kendall’s Project Purple fundraiser by following this link to her Crowdrise Page: