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Jane Klutenkamper

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt has been quoted as once saying, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Former Bonne Terre resident Jane (Newcomer) Klutenkamper, age 56, has faced adversity in her life.

At the age of 30, Klutenkamper found herself recently divorced with three small children.

She was living in Bonne Terre at the time and worked as a nurse in the OR at the former Bonne Terre Hospital.

Klutenkamper recalls how she had noticed a lump in one of her breasts. She automatically assumed it was a cyst because of previous history.

It was when she was able to notice the lump through her shirt she decided to have it checked.

When she visited the doctor, he told her even though she was young and healthy, he wanted to send her for further testing to be safe.

“He said he’d had another patient that was young, it ended up as breast cancer and she didn’t make it,” Klutenkamper recalled.

Klutenkamper was then sent to have an ultrasound. As an employee of the hospital, she knew most of the technicians.

“He told me right after, ‘you really need to get this checked out’,” she said.

As a follow-up to the ultrasound, Klutenkamper then went in for a biopsy of the lump.

While working the evening shift at the hospital, she remembers going to the lab to get her pathology results.

What she found once she was able to obtain the results was not good. When a doctor walked in right as she was reading the results, she asked him to take a look and tell her what he could tell from the test.

“He said, ‘Oh, this isn’t good. Whose is this?,’” she recalled, to which she answered a simple “it’s me.”

The decision was made for Klutenkamper to have her surgery at a St. Louis hospital since the facility at Bonne Terre was more like family.

“There were only four of us working in the OR,” she explained.

Following her surgery would be chemotherapy treatments in the city as well. She remembers how rough it was during the treatment.

In addition to working and taking care of three children, she was studying to obtain her Bachelor’s in nursing.

“I remember I was in a night class at MAC and it felt like someone had beaten me in the head. My head felt really sore and tingly,” she recalled.

Klutenkamper would awaken the next day to find that all of her hair had fallen out.

“That was probably more devastating than everything else,” she said.

Her wish was to stay at home during her treatments so she didn’t have to be away from her children. The hospital gave her an I.V. bag of the chemotherapy medicine so she did not have to travel to the city.

Klutenkamper said she quickly rethought that decision one day after her youngest daughter, who was 7 at the time, came home from school.

“She came home and I was still in bed because I was so sick. She said, ‘oh, you look so much better! Your eyes are open!’” she shared. “After that, I thought it would be better for me to have the treatment in the hospital because I didn’t want them to see me that way.”

Road to Recovery

Prior to her breast cancer diagnosis, Klutenkamper said she lived an active, healthy lifestyle.

Once she began to regain her strength after her bout with cancer, she made the decision to stay as healthy as possible for herself and her children.

“I started walking. And then I started running,” she said.

Ten years after she was diagnosed with cancer, Klutenkamper would run in her first marathon.

Her children would participate in several marathons with her as well.

Klutenkamper decided to take her fitness one step further. She decided to enter a short triathlon.

A triathlon consist of three separate sports: swimming, cycling and running. Klutenkamper said the first time convinced her this was something she’d want to do again.

“I really liked the different sports,” she said.

From there, she would take the leap and enter a half-Ironman competition.

A full Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride followed by a 26.2 mile run in order and without a break.

In 2000, Klutenkamper was dating a gentleman who was competing in the Ironman competition in Lake Placid, New York.

“We decided to sign up and do it together in 2001,” she said. “That was my first Ironman and I really enjoyed it.

Klutenkamper would go on to compete in a total of 10 Ironman competitions. In addition to Lake Placid, she competed in Louisville, Ky.; Madison, Wisc.; and Florida.

Her race in Florida in 2003 holds a special place in her heart. She was competing in the race with Larry, her significant other.

“He finished before me. When I came in, he proposed at the finish,” she said. “That was very cool.”

Ten years after that big race, Klutenkamper would compete in her tenth Ironman in Muncie, Ind.

But, that would not be her last for the year.

From chemo to Kona

The Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is what all triathletes look to as a pinnacle of achievement.

This year’s championship took place on Oct. 12.

Qualification to compete in Kona is obtained by amateur athletes through placing in one of the other Ironman series races.

There is also a random lottery used obtain entry into the competition, but those entering the lottery must also have qualifying times from previous races.

Klutenkamper said she felt like it was time to throw her name in the lottery.

Her chances of getting in the race through the lottery system would be slim. In the 55-59 age division, there is only one slot available.

In what would turn out in Klutenkamper’s favor, the first person selected did not take it.

“It rolled down to me,” she said.

Klutenkamper admits each Ironman she pushed herself to do better than the last. For her trip to Kona, she had other plans.

“Typically, I do everything as hard as I can. Try to get the best time that I can,” she said.

But, her Kona race would be different. She would approach this race more conservatively than the others.

Klutenkamper felt Kona would be about reflecting on the hard work it took to get there and to enjoy the moment. She’d watched the race on television many times before and didn’t want to miss a second of it.

She told of the clear water for the swim and the lava fields along the landscape during the competition.

“It was difficult to get here and to qualify. I just wanted to make sure I got to the finish line,” she said. “When you compete in Ironman, it’s where you want to get to. I honestly never thought I’d get here. It’s very exciting.”

Klutenkamper would finish the race with a time of 14:29:29. On the Ironman website, Klutenkamper ranks 100th overall out of the USA women’s 55-59 age category for her two competitions this year.

On that Tuesday, Klutenkamper called from an airport in Hawaii where she and her husband, along with two other couples, waited to take off to their next island location.

“After Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. – when my race was done – my vacation started,” she said with a laugh.

Shawnna Robinson is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or srobinson@dailyjournalonline.com

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