Heading Polk County’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Campaign a Personal Crusade for Kia Troutman
Kia Troutman knows cancer.
She knows how it killed her grandparents and a co-worker. She knows what her 61-year-old cousin in Mississippi, recently diagnosed with breast cancer, is going through. She knows how it touches the lives of African-Americans and kills them at a much higher rate than other ethnicities in America.
Those are the reasons she got involved and this year serves as the event chair for Polk County’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign. She and her executive committee are counting the days to the annual walk at 7:30 a.m. on October 13 at the Frances Langford Promenade at Lake Mirror, both in downtown Lakeland.
“Cancer has affected my family,” says Troutman, a tall, thin 35-year-old with a soft-spoken voice. “My grandmother had lung cancer and did not have a long fight; it may have been about six months after her diagnosis that she succumbed to the disease. I was devastated when my grandma passed away because she was very loving, and we spent a lot of time together.”
Her grandfather suffered from stomach cancer and lived a few years after being diagnosed.
Then there was Darla, a co-worker who was diagnosed before Troutman, a Realtor, began working with her. She watched her as she bravely fought the disease —a second time.
“Darla’s cancer had recurred when I came onboard with the company we both worked for. She was quiet and strong, and managed to care for others through it all,” Troutman says. “I was amazed to see how thoughtful she was despite the circumstances.”
Darla also became a cancer statistic, giving Troutman one more reason to get involved when her husband, Ashley, joined the crusade as a “Real Men Wear Pink” participant a year or two ago.
She knows the statistics aren’t good for African-Americans when it comes to cancer. Among black women who battle cancer, nearly one-third suffer from breast cancer — by far the most common type in black women. Lack of access to preventive screenings such as mammograms, and health care in general, has kept that statistic high for black women.
Even with some improvement in racial disparity in the last 15 or so years, “African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers,” the American Society reports. That’s especially so for black women, where the racial disparity for breast cancer has widened.
“My main goal is to help eliminate disparities in various communities when it comes to breast cancer survival through awareness and community partnerships,” Troutman says. “I believe that we have to go toward the individuals who need help, and inform them of the available resources.”
“With breast cancer, I’m trying to help bridge that gap, which is a goal of the American Cancer Society,” she says.
Rae Ford, who is the American Cancer Society’s liaison to Troutman and the Making Strides event, says Troutman has been her lifeline.
“Kia has been an absolute anchor; she’s level-headed and she’s so passionate,” Ford says. “When she talks to you . . . she makes time for things that are important to her and important to the community. She’s done everything to make this event possible.”
Troutman’s passion goes beyond breast cancer. She also serves as a committee member on the CEO, Patient, and Family Board at Lakeland Regional Health, only a mile or so from her downtown Lakeland office. That board is “focused on improving the health-care experience for individuals receiving care at LRH. I mainly listen to the concerns of community members in my sphere, and relay it to the CEO and other pertinent members of the hospital administration and staff.”
There are only a few weeks left to go before Troutman and the Making Strides’ teams take to the pavement to walk, some in honor of loved ones no longer with them. On the day of the event, survivors are treated to breakfast in the Survivors Tent and thousands gather to celebrate the Real Men Wear Pink participants. Troutman is in full-steam-ahead mode to make sure everything comes off perfectly and as much money as possible is raised. All those who are battling the disease, or know someone who is, are depending on her and her team to ensure that success in the hopes that one day, possibly with money donated at this event, researchers will find a cure.
by LENORE DEVORE