Area real estate leader calls self 'cancer conqueror'

Kristi Soligo Fleshman is a breast cancer survivor.

Kristi Soligo Fleshman may be a familiar name. She has been in the real estate business since 1997 and leads her own RE/MAX Revolution team in the Northland.

Things changed in September 2018 for the area leader.

Fleshman, who is diligent with mammograms and even pays extra for the 3D mammography, had a clear report in March of that year.

“Then I started training for the Kansas City half marathon,” she said. “Wearing a sports bra, I noticed something and figured it was a clogged sweat gland, which I have had, and blamed it on that.”

Weeks went by and Fleshman’s husband said the “cyst” didn’t seem right.

“It was about the size of a lima bean in my left breast,” Fleshman said. “I know I let it go too long.”

Women’s Imaging Center at Liberty Hospital medical director Amy Patel was the one who told Fleshman it was cancer after the biopsy — HER-2 positive and stage 2.

After that diagnosis, Fleshman visited Elizabeth Butler, breast surgeon with St. Luke’s Cancer Institute at Liberty Hospital, who recommended genetic testing. Fleshman knew she had a paternal aunt and a first cousin on her father’s side that had breast cancer.

Fleshman went through chemotherapy, a mastectomy of the left breast, 33 rounds of radiation and breast reconstruction.

“Initially, I didn’t want to know the cancer stage, rather I was ‘Let’s go,’” she said. “I wanted to speak with an oncologist and start moving. I ended up getting a third opinion and having a St. Luke’s doctor. I ended up with a port for chemo. My cancer responded well and I had six rounds of chemo every three weeks.”

In February 2019, Fleshman had her mastectomy and then radiation. Fleshman said she wanted to have the bulk of her treatment at Liberty Hospital. She served on the Liberty Hospital Foundation board of directors since 2012, including a turn as president.

“I was doing OK until about week three of radiation,” she explained. “It was hard. There was peeling and blistering. Looking in the mirror was reliving it over and over again.”

During this time, Fleshman continued to sell real estate. If she needed a power nap, her team would allow her that.

“I wore a wig,” she said. “One of the most bizarre things was losing my eyelashes.”

Now that Fleshman has been declared cancer free, she reflects on the experience. She encourages women to get a second or third opinion. 

“I didn’t want to talk about the C word,” she said. “I know it’s a life-changing event. Now, I appreciate everything. I don’t take anything for granted. I always believed I was invincible, but I know that cancer doesn’t discriminate.”

She praises the strong support system she had including her husband, children, running partners and her current broker, who is also a cancer survivor. Fleshman, who turned 50 last year, said she shouted from the rooftops that she reached that milestone.

“I wanted to keep everything as normal as possible through this process,” said the business leader. “I sat my kids down at the table and we talked. My younger daughter thought I would be in the hospital more, but I was only in one night for the mastectomy. You have to have hope. Life isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. I believed in that positive mindset.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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