The first time I ever attended a golf tournament I was 7 years old.
My mother and many extended family members accompanied me to be a part of this golf tournament, which consisted of my dad’s friends and colleagues through the Charleston Contractors Association. My parents and a couple of players wore shirts sporting the words “Team Monica.”
It was July 1997 and at the time I was skinny, frail and covered in bruises. I also had to wear an oversized baseball cap to cover my bald little head. I do not remember much of the tournament; I had a very weak immune system and ended up getting sick and had to leave the tournament early to go to the hospital.
This is no ordinary golf tournament. It has survived 17 years and has raised over $600,000 geared toward fighting childhood cancer at MUSC Children’s Hospital. It is credited for helping fund a $3.5 million grant for the hospital for experiments. The tournament is the longest running fundraising event in the hospital’s history.
This tournament also happens to be named after yours truly.
I was in first grade when my mom took me to see our family pediatrician because of a persistent low-grade fever I had been enduring for about a week. Our doctor commented that I looked “anemic” and decided to draw some blood. A blood test would reveal news that would be confusing to me, but devastating to my parents: I had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).
I was diagnosed Friday, Oct. 25, 1996.
There are many types of Leukemia but ALL is most commonly found in children. Leukemia is when an immature or mutated white blood cell begins to reproduce, inhibiting the production of normal cells. It causes severe bruising in patients and increased risk of infection.
I ended up going through nearly three years of chemotherapy, but that first year of my diagnosis was a tough one. I spent many nights in the hospital – if I ever got sick or got a fever I landed myself back in the hospital.
I was pretty naďve about my illness – it took me a while to pronounce it “leukemia” instead of “leukamenia.” When I was sick I thought it was my cancer that caused me to go bald but it was actually the chemotherapy, a series of anti-cancer medicine that works like poison; while it did save my life it made me nauseous and weak and took away my precious locks.
Less than a year into my cancer treatment my dad was approached by colleagues and dear family friend Bailey Williams to start a golf tournament in my name, not only to raise funds for MUSC’s cancer research but to raise awareness as well. On July 18 we are celebrating the 18th Annual Monica Kreber Golf Tournament on Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms. Every year all proceeds go to the pediatric oncology at MUSC.
Today I am 24 years old and 100-percent cancer-free (fist pump). I regularly go back to MUSC once a year for a check-up and yes, this is my real hair – I am not wearing a wig or anything. I know I owe my life to my wonderful doctors and nurses but I also owe a great deal of thanks to all the people who prayed for me to get better when I was sick – many of those people still participate in my golf tournament.
Forgive me for sounding sappy (I just finished reading “The Fault in Our Stars” – spoiler alert: I cried at least once per chapter), but the people who are involved in my golf tournament are the best people I know. Despite the fact that my tournament is held every July and it is over 100 degrees outside they show up, have fun and join us in the fight to beat cancer.
One of the biggest compliments I ever receive is being told how much these people look forward to the tournament each year. And I am not going to lie — having a golf tournament named after me is ridiculously cool. Seeing banners and posters practically shouting my name in big, bold letters never gets old.
My parents always tell me that back when I was sick it was important for them to meet other parents who had gone through the same thing and had success stories to share – which is why we are still sharing our own success story. We try to network with the golf tournament and over the years we have invited parents with children fighting cancer to come and be a part of our event.
I want these families to know that we are pulling for them, and that my family still clings to hope that one day there will be a cure for cancer.