Local cancer battler, mother of two brings inspiring story to Safeco Field
SEATTLE -- With her husband, dad and two kids cheering her on, Mariners Honorary Bat Girl Kimberly Fugere threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Sunday's Mariners game, an underhanded toss from 20 feet to Dustin Ackley that carried with it all the hopes and dreams a Mother's Day can hold.
Fugere, 32, is fighting breast cancer that has spread to her lungs and brain. And her story is one that touches anyone who cares to listen.
Fugere was chosen for Sunday's Honorary Bat Girl honor after being nominated by her father, Jim Greenman, who described how his daughter has already overcome tremendous adversity since being born with cerebral palsy and brain damage.
Greenman said doctors told them their daughter would never walk and should probably be cared for in an institution, but she instead has grown up to be a college graduate of BYU-Idaho and mother of two children of her own -- Emeline, 6, and Dallin, 3.
She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer two years ago, just a year after losing her own mom to cancer at age 52, and the disease has continued to spread despite all medical efforts.
Fugere has a family history of cancer, with her great grandfather, grandmother, aunt and mother all dying of the disease. Doctors have discovered she not only carries the breast cancer gene, but also shares a rare genetic disorder that makes it difficult for her body to fight cancer.
So now Fugere is fighting for her life again and since her breast cancer diagnosis in 2011, she's undergone treatment at Valley Medical Center in Renton and Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.
Two months ago, she underwent brain surgery and she received her latest breast cancer treatment just three days ago.
Yet there she was on Sunday, smiling, sharing the moment, soaking up her pregame experience in the Mariners' dugout and taking time to warn others to seek early warning signs.
"I was so young getting breast cancer, and I think it's important for others to realize that just because you're young doesn't mean you're not going to get it," she said. "I know at first I always thought, 'I'm young, I don't need to worry about it.'"
Freeman said Sunday's event was huge for his daughter, who grew up in California before moving to Renton seven years ago.
"She's just ecstatic about this," he said. "And any time she can get something positive in her life, that's just a really good thing. If she can be an inspiration in any way to anybody else who is out there fighting this. … I don't even call cancer a disease, it's just a horrific thing that I hate.
"There's a genetic mutation in our family that is passed down and they say 50 percent of your offspring will have it," Freeman said. "Of my six kids, four have tested positive already and she's the only one who has manifested so far. So we live with it every day. That's what we do, live one day at a time and take every positive thing like this for what it is, a neat, neat thing. We appreciate it."
The annual Honorary Bat Girl Contest recognizes 30 baseball fans, one for each Major League team, who have been affected by breast cancer and demonstrate a commitment to eradicating the disease.
Winners were selected by fan votes on HonoraryBatGirl.com along with feedback from a Guest Judging Panel that included CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, Maria Menounos of Extra TV and Sam Ryan, MLB Network host and reporter.