Fitness instructor using birthday bash to help school chum fighting cancer
It’s her party – and she can give if she wants to.
Katina Rice is throwing herself an exercise-infused 40th birthday bash next week, but all the presents will go to her longtime friend, Kim Jones Barr, who is fighting cancer for the second time.
“Since it was a milestone birthday for me, I wanted to have a big party, but I didn’t want to have a big party just to have a big party,” Rice explained. “I wanted to have a party with a purpose.”
Rice, a pharmacist and fitness instructor, is charging $10-$15 admission to her dance party at Skate World in Kernersville on Saturday, Sept. 28. Rice and a handful of fellow fitness instructors will lead partygoers through a variety of dance-inspired workouts.
“We’re going to be dancing the entire time, so it’ll be like a fitness class,” said Rice, a mother of two. “…It’s going to be so much fun – good, clean fun. We’ll be able to dance the afternoon away under the glow lights.”
Proceeds from the event, which is open to the public, will go to Barr and her family, to help offset the financial burden they have shouldered as a result of Barr’s illness and 10-month absence from work. Rice, who has operated the mobile fitness outfit Dance Fit Divas for more than two years, said she sees the party as a way of “paying forward” her own good fortune.
Though she and Rice have kept in touch over the more than two decades since they attended and graduated from Carver High School together, Barr said she was taken aback when Rice offered to make her the beneficiary of the party.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said the mother of three. “…I just think she’s a very special person to reach out and do something so nice and so unselfish.”
Barr, a teacher at Hanes Middle Middle School, was first diagnosed in November 2002. She was 31 and has just given birth to her youngest daughter, Kyndall.
“I was able to get through because I had a lot of support,” said Barr, who began chemotherapy when her daughter was eight-weeks-old.
“I did four rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation, and then I went back to work.”
Following her lumpectomy and subsequent treatment, the Winston-Salem State University alumna said her life took on a more normal rhythm, but the experience left an indelible mark.
“It made me definitely not take life for granted, to just live every day like it was my last, and I think just to be more compassionate,” said Barr, who is also rearing her 14-year-old sister.
For 10 years, Barr was cancer-free, but late last year, she found another lump in her breast. At the time, Barr, who was preparing to undergo a hysterectomy – a precautionary measure recommended to some breast cancer patients – said she was optimistic.
“I felt something and I thought, ‘nah, surely not after 10 years – this isn’t cancer,’” she related. “I had just had a clean mammogram.”
Nevertheless, Barr decided to have the lump checked out, and on Jan. 7, 2013 – her first day back at work after her hysterectomy – her fears were confirmed: the cancer was back. The setback was a test of her faith, said the New Direction Movement Cathedral member.
“I just remember crying at work like, ‘I don’t know if I’ve got this same fight in me like I did 10 years ago,’ and … God said, ‘You’ve got more to live for now than you did 10 years ago, and all you can do is fight,’”
After that, Barr steeled herself for another battle. This time, she wasn’t taking any chances; she opted for a double mastectomy.
“That was probably one of the hardest decisions that I had to make as a woman, but I said, ‘Do I want to have breasts or do I want to live and be a wife and mother and grandmother?’” she said. “…I have a positive outlook. I don’t look at it like ‘whoa is me.’ God has a purpose for this.”
When they learned of her diagnosis, Rice and fellow members of Carver Nation rallied around Barr.
“The Carver community is like that – the old school community,” said the 1991 alumna. “We have so much pride in the school; if you went there, you are like family.”
Barr’s surgery was followed by months of chemo and radiation, which she completed in August. She is scheduled for reconstructive surgery on the day of Rice’s party. Though it will be months until she knows for sure that the cancer is in remission, Barr, who has been married for 17 years, said she has faith that her war has been won.
“I believe God that it is gone,” she declared. “…My pastor told me the first time, ‘This sickness will not be unto death but for God to be glorified,’ and I believe that. I think that my situation will give somebody else hope.”
Rice, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, said she is hoping the party will allow her to make a significant contribution to Barr and her family.
“I would love to at least be able to give her $750,” she said, noting that the community has already begun to donate to the project. “The more people that come, the more we can give her.”
Rice’s glow party will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Skate World, 1995 West Mountain Street in Kernersville. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. For more information, to purchase tickets or to make a donation, visit https://katina40thglowparty.eventbrite.com/ or call Rice at 336-655-6538.