RACE FOR THE CURE: Kelli Andres survives cancer - twice! - Toledo News Now, Breaking News, Weather, Sports, Toledo

RACE FOR THE CURE: Kelli Andres survives cancer - twice!

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Kelli Andres and family Kelli Andres and family
Confections for the Cure cookies Confections for the Cure cookies
TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

Kelli Andres treasures family game night and other opportunities to make memories with her family.  Three years ago, she didn't know what her future might hold.

In February of 2010, Kelli went in for her annual doctor's visit complaining of some soreness in her breast.

"It was discovered on an ultrasound," Kelli explained.  "They did a biopsy right on the spot, and five days later I had breast cancer and it was like, ‘Where do we go now?'"

Kelli was just 45, but she had heard the words "you have cancer" before.  In 1977, when Kelli was 12, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and had to have her leg amputated at the hip. 

"I was old enough to understand why they were doing what they were doing, but young enough to not acknowledge the seriousness of it," she said. "My parents didn't tell me it was 50 percent survival rate for that cancer at that time."

Her hometown of Sandusky rallied around her, and after surgery and grueling chemotherapy, Kelli not only survived - she thrived! She still remembers the day she got home from the hospital.

"I still had stitches in from my surgery, and my mom was in the house and she came to check and see what I was doing and I was on crutches, on one leg, on a skateboard," she said.

Kelli had been cancer-free for years when she graduated from UT, and married Van Andres. Her cancer experience led her to a job at the American Cancer Society, where the job became more of a mission. 

"I've always had a feeling as a survivor, a sense of responsibility that maybe I need to share my story to give others hope, to encourage others," she said. "I think it helps me, and I hope it helps others."

Kelli and Van had their sons Patrick, then Noah, and cancer became a distant memory until the boys were 8 and 3, and Kelli heard those words again.  She remembers how different it was hearing the words as an adult:

"As a child, you have one goal: to get better, go back and hang out, have fun, do your thing.  Having cancer as a wife and mother is a whole different ball game, but you know, everything came back: the humor my dad taught me, the perspective my dad taught me: ‘there are people worse off than you are.' You know, we have good medical insurance, I had a husband who was right there with me, friends and family who were right there to help with my kids - and not everybody has that!" 

Those blessings made Kelli want to give back in a big way.  She started raising money for the Race for the Cure through a unique fundraiser called ‘Confections for the Cure.'

 "We were trying to think of a fun way to raise money and we thought, ‘We like desserts, and we like to party, so how about a dessert party? And let's make it a competition!  Your dessert has to be pink and we're going to judge it!'" she explained.

Confections for the Cure has raised thousands of dollars for Northwest Ohio Komen, but way beyond the money, Van is amazed at what his wife gives.  

"She'll talk to anyone or listen to anyone, tell her story and give people a sense of hope," he said. "It's a testament to her strength, her courage. That's the girl I fell in love with."

And that's the girl the 20th anniversary Northwest Ohio Komen Race for the Cure will be run in celebration of.  Kelli says she feels honored, and very passionate about finding a cure.

"I would love for my friends and my friends' daughters to not have to worry about breast cancer, to not go through what I went through," she said. "That's what I hope to see in my lifetime."

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