Rising to the challenge: Worthington windsurfer Lisa Kremer featured in new TV reality series
WORTHINGTON -- Lisa Kremer was a bit skeptical that anything would come out of her application to be part of a TV series called "The Real Winning Edge." But the Worthington windsurfer and Olympic hopeful will indeed be featured in an upcoming episode of the reality series that debuts today.
Lisa, the daughter of Glenn and Barb Kremer of Worthington, first heard about the series being produced by Challenger films from Bill Keitel of Worthington, who currently serves on the U.S. Windsurfing Board of Directors, as does Lisa.
"It was maybe a couple of years ago that he came over and said, 'I hope you don't mind, but I received information about how they were looking for a female windsurfer for this new TV series. They wanted somebody who has overcome a difficulty in life and has a good Christian background, so I gave them your name. They might be in contact,'" recounted Lisa.
"I thought, 'Yeah, right, Bill,' but somebody gave me a call the next week and asked me to fill out an application, which I did, then I had a phone interview, and they decided to choose me."
"The Real Winning Edge" is a 26-week, half-hour broadcast television program that features "real life high school and college students who face challenges such as substance abuse or being abandoned by their parents," according to promotional materials. "Each of the young people selected represents a sport or a field in the arts. The series will chronicle how they conquer the odds to achieve victory in their field of talent and also how they battle difficult circumstances to achieve victory in their personal lives."
Each half-hour segment contains three segments featuring the personal stories of outstanding young people. The stories are introduced by high-profile professional athletes.
Filming for Lisa's segment was first done at the 2007 U.S. National Championships in San Francisco.
"Out in San Francisco, the producer of Challenger Films and 'The Real Winning Edge' came out to make sure everything was filmed right," Lisa explained. "They hire a crew wherever they're filming at, so they hired this guy from San Francisco and put him out in a boat, all decked out in a big poncho."
The rest of her segment was filmed at Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa, where Lisa is currently a junior with sophomore status in the nursing program, due to time she took off to train for her 2008 Olympic quest.
"They came to Briar Cliff last year at about this time to finish up the filming," Lisa continued. "That's when they did the interview and videotaped me with my friends and what I do with my friends. I was walking around campus with a film crew, and I wasn't even in school at the time. My friends would see me and say, 'Lisa, you're back,' and I'd have to say, 'I can't talk right now.'"
Since each segment focuses on the athlete overcoming a challenge, Lisa relates how a knee injury forced her to give up playing basketball.
"I went through two knee surgeries right when I was getting into basketball, really starting to enjoy it," she shared. "I was almost on the varsity team, and right when I started high school, I blew out my ACL my freshman year. Then, a year later, I did it again after going through all the therapy to get back into basketball. I had to make a decision to quit basketball, but it opened up new doors for my windsurfing."
Now that the segment has wrapped, Lisa is facing a much bigger challenge. She was recently diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer.
Shortly after this year's National Championships, hosted in Worthington in June, were over, Lisa noticed a lump in her neck. She was put on a course of antibiotics, but it didn't go away, so the Kremers decided to consult a specialist. An initial needle biopsy didn't provide conclusive results because a big enough sample wasn't taken, and Lisa returned to school with assurances that it was likely a benign cyst.
"Maybe five days before my follow-up appointment for the antibiotics, after practice one day, I passed out in my room," Lisa said. "I woke up with a cut under my eye, and I started having night sweats."
During a return visit to the specialist, he suggested removing the lump, mainly to put Lisa's fears to rest.
"He told me that it would either be a cyst or just an inflamed lymph note, but said it could also be something such as lymphoma, but that's rare, and they weren't expecting that," Lisa related.
When she got out of surgery and inquired what kind of cyst it was, Lisa's parents had to tell her it was a thyroid tumor, although they were still hopeful it was benign.
"It was weird, because we hadn't even been thinking anything thyroid at that time," she said. "They told me it was also abnormal looking. That Friday, we were told it was cancer -- papillary thyroid cancer. ... I think my parents knew something was wrong because it was abnormal looking. I wanted to deny anything was wrong."
Although the news was devastating, Lisa hasn't let the diagnosis bring her down. She was back to running a week after her surgery and participated in last week's Turkey Day 10K, coming in 95th.
"I always think it could be worse. It could be lymphoma or another type of cancer," she said. "Papillary thyroid cancer is very treatable. The prognosis is very good for it."
The tumor was removed at the end of August, but Lisa went back into surgery Friday for a complete thyroidectomy.
"They want to remove all the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck, because thyroid cancer can move into the lymph nodes," she explained a few days before the surgery.
Lisa plans to return to class on Monday, although she's been warned that she will be "weak, tired and crabby" for a couple weeks. Then she'll begin taking regular hormone replacement pills -- a regimen she'll have to follow for the rest of her life.
"I'm not sure when I'll start, but I'll do between one and five treatments of iodine radiation," Lisa detailed. "I'll have to come home for that, take a radiation pill, then three to four days later I can return back to school."
Although she knows there will be a rehabilitation period after the surgery and possibly some effects from the treatment, she is determined to get her life back to normal as soon as possible.
"I'm planning on still going on a school mission trip in November. I wanted to know: When can I start running again, and will I be able to go on this mission trip that I've been planning for a year. We're going to Honduras, where we're putting in a water system in a village, so we will pretty much be digging trenches on a mountain."
While she's been given the go-ahead for those activities, Lisa did have to cancel one upcoming event. She was scheduled to attend "The Real Winning Edge" premiere in Atlanta and had planned to take along her sister, Renae, as a surprise for her birthday.
"She'll probably be visiting me in the hospital instead," Lisa lamented.
But Lisa has plenty of other travel plans to look forward to as part of her continued quest to represent the U.S. in the Olympics in 2012.
"I was really hoping to try out for the U.S. Sailing Team in January, but with taking so much time off of school, I may have to work at getting my GPA back up if it does fall off," she said. "But in the works is planning my training for next summer. I'll be heading out to England to train with Beth (Williamson, her training partner from the U.K, who spent last summer in Worthington) and do the European circuit over there. I'll race in Holland and at the Worlds in England, and hopefully apply to do the Europeans (championship) in Israel."
"The Real Winning Edge" will be broadcast on KMSP, a Fox affiliate out of the Twin Cities, at 10 and 10:30 a.m. Saturdays. Lisa Kremer's segment is tentatively slated to run this winter. For more information and state and station airtimes, go to www.challengerfilms.com or www.realwinningedge.com.