Christine Stavros: Competing For A Cure

Christine & Pete before the 2012 Team Challenge Napa Race.

Christine & Pete before the 2012 Team Challenge Napa Race.

Since 2006, Christine Stavros’ life has been filled with many challenges, the first of which occurred with an unexpected health crisis.

At the age of 28, she began experiencing unusual pain in her stomach and irregularity with her digestive system. A colonoscopy determined she was suffering from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease with which 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed. Typically appearing in people in their mid-30s, there’s no true cure save removal of the colon, and little cause is known of the illness associated with a loss of energy, appetite and weight, as well as abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloody stools.

“I had a rough first year where I had several flares,” she said. “I switched to a new gastroenterologist and tried new medications, and I’ve been really blessed to (now) have everything in control.” Treating the illness has become easier over time, especially through the help of husband, Pete, as well as the organization Team Challenge – an endurance training and fitness program sponsored by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) allowing participants to run or walk a half-marathon, train for a cycling event or experience a sprint triathlon, while making a difference.

In 2010, Christine completed her first Team Challenge in Napa, raising $4,800 for Crohn’s and colitis research. Her plan was to participate in one event and be done, but she found herself hooked on the challenge. “It’s just the camaraderie of (Team Challenge),” she said. “Before, I was kind of quiet about the disease … and obviously once you start fundraising you have to start sharing your story … and you realize how big this issue is and suddenly have this big group of people who understand what you’re going through.”

The disease became all too clear for Pete a year later, when he was diagnosed with a more advanced form of colitis, and within 10 months underwent three surgeries. The experience was traumatic for both him and Christine, but thanks to Team Challenge, the couple garnered even more support fighting the disease the second time around.

Christine has continued her commitment to Team Challenge, participating in the Napa event over summer. She’ll mentor a competitor, due to an injury keeping her from running, at Team Challenge Nashville on Sept. 22, held the same day as a new fundraiser Christine is helping start in Louisville.

The inaugural Cupcakes and Cocktails event, a benefit for the Kentucky Chapter of CCFA, will be held at Eclipse Bank, 3827 Shelbyville Road, at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22. Taking on responsibility for the fundraiser may add extra work to her schedule, but with all she’s overcome in the last six years, it’s a challenge Christine willingly accepts in hopes of one day finding a cure for her illness.

“I feel much better, I feel much healthier, but I still have little issues,” Christine said. “A lot of people, they may not know it, but they probably know someone who’s affected by (Crohn’s or colitis). (And Cupcakes and Cocktails is a way to) provide your support and help individuals you may not even realize are helped by it.”

Cupcakes and Cocktails

Cupcakes and Cocktails will be hosted by the Kentucky Chapter of the CCFA. The event is held to raise awareness and funds to support research for these two chronic digestive diseases. Attendees will enjoy signature cupcakes from four local bakeries competing for the best tasting cupcake and best presentation, a signature cocktail sponsored by Brown-Forman, live music, light hors d’oeuvres and an exclusive silent auction. Tasting will be judged by event guests; presentation will be judged by James Brown from Brown Bakery in Lexington; Angie Fenton, managing editor of The Voice-Tribune and entertainment correspondent for WHAS11’s Great Day Live!; Steve Stratton, CEO of Eclipse Bank; and 99.7 WDJX’s Kelly K, who is also emceeing the event. Tickets are $50 per person. For additional information about Team Challenge and Cupcakes and Cocktails, visit www.ccfa.org/chapters/kentucky or contact the Kentucky Chapter at 646.623.2620.