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Leukemia patient finds strength and inspiration at Winship 5K
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Andrea Clement
Guten Tag Y'all Winship 5K team members

Kimi Cottmeyer (pictured wearing sunglasses) celebrates with her Guten Tag Y'all run/walk team at the 2021 Winship 5K.

Kimi Cottmeyer thought she had the flu. But after going to urgent care and getting a complete blood count, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Shortly after, her body went into blast crisis, meaning abnormal white blood cells had spread into her tissues and organs beyond the bone marrow. That’s when her doctor told her she needed to go to Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

“I was terrified, of course, but I can’t describe how walking into Emory made me feel. From the minute I got there, I had an overwhelming feeling of confidence. I believed in them from day one,” Cottmeyer said.

Cottmeyer’s doctors discussed treatment with her. “I know they see so many patients, but they treated me like, ‘We are here for you,’” she recalled. While preparing for a bone marrow transplant called for some of the strongest chemotherapy drugs, Cottmeyer found strength and confidence in knowing she was receiving the best care available.

The transplant was successful, and Cottmeyer’s cancer is now in remission, with no evidence of disease. She now volunteers at Winship, comforting cancer patients as they receive treatment. “Volunteering, for me, is part of healing. There’s physical healing, but there’s a lot of mental and emotional healing that has to come, too,” she said. “I tell them, ‘I know exactly what you’re going through. I was sitting in a chair just like that.’”

Finding hope in the Winship community

Cottmeyer watched the Winship 5K from Emory University Hospital in 2019 while receiving treatment. Inspired by the thousands of walkers, runners, and supporters, she began walking around the hospital with her IV pole in tow. She decided that after treatment, her first goal would be to participate in the event. And two years later, she did just that. Cottmeyer said of her experience, “There was a time when I couldn’t walk five steps, and now, I can walk a 5K.”

The Winship 5K is more than a road race. It’s an opportunity for the Winship community of survivors, family members, friends, patients, and staff members to come together and support the incredible work being done every day at Winship. This year, Cottmeyer plans to lead her team, Guten Tag, Y’all, across the finish line again.

Beyond participating in the 5K, her team raises money for cancer research. “Winship is bustling with everything you can think of as far as cancer prevention, treatment, and research. I am proud to support Winship through volunteering and raising money,” Cottmeyer said. Since 2011, the Winship 5K has raised more than $8.4 million.

“The Winship community is filled with people like Kimi Cottmeyer. Every day, they inspire us to look beyond the disease and focus on the patient, their families, and the people who love them. I believe the work we are doing has the real possibility of ending cancer in our lifetime. And the funds raised through Winship 5K help get us there,” said Amelia A. Langston, MD, director, Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program, Winship Cancer Institute.

This year, participants can join the Winship community in person or virtually. The 13th annual Winship 5K will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023, on Emory’s main campus. The Peachtree Road Race-qualifier starts on McDonough Field and takes runners and walkers through the heart of Emory, with the close community of survivors, caregivers, family members, and friends cheering along the way. Those participating virtually can upload results and share them with friends and family.

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