Game Hair Havoc Chronicles: Katherine Frega

“If you conceive it in your mind, and believe it in your heart, you will achieve it.” This is what got Katharine Frega through her two-and-a-half-year journey of taking on her toughest opponent: Hodgkins Lymphoma, Stage IIB. But not even cancer could keep this lacrosse lover away from the field for very long, despite having to re-learn how to walk as a result of her bone marrow transplant. “Every chance I had to play it was with intention, and with a grateful heart,” said Katharine.   

Only a junior in high school at the time, Katharine’s field hockey coaches began to notice a difference in the way that she was running and playing. “I looked like I was running in the sand. My joints had become swollen, and I had a cough that didn’t seem to go away” she says. After going to her pediatrician, she was referred to a Rheumatologist where she was then diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and put on treatment. Unfortunately for Katharine, her situation was about to get much worse. She had excruciating pain, was constantly feeling tired and worn out, and had itching all over her body, along with her never ending cough. “Finally, months later, the rheumatologist ordered a chest X-ray and that’s where they found out that I had a tumor the size of a football in my chest, compressing my lungs and trachea and pushing on my heart,” she explained.

Frega has played lacrosse her entire life, so naturally she knew of HEADstrong because of the foundation’s deep seeded roots in the lacrosse community. It wasn’t until Katherine herself was undergoing treatment that she fully understood the significance of HEADstrong. She connected with Cheryl Colleluori while undergoing treatment and felt an immediate sense of support from the Colleluori family, and her entire (newly found) community.

Katherine started chemotherapy right away and within weeks her symptoms had improved. Before she knew it, she was a senior getting ready to attend college. With great hope that there was some light at the end of the tunnel, Katherine received devastating news. She relapsed at the end of her senior year and was told she had to take a year off from pursuing her education due to having to restart treatment. With a relentless and inspiring effort, she came back to the lacrosse field two and a half years later as a freshman at Syracuse University.  

Now 10 years from her diagnosis, Katherine is still participating in her favorite activities such as skiing, hiking, and playing lacrosse. She competes in CrossFit competitions, and is even getting married to the love of her life this spring. After her diagnosis she knew that she wanted to be a physician in order to improve the cancer patient experience and to play a part in the cure for cancer. 

“I cannot describe how special it is to be a survivor taking care of cancer patients so personally,” She explained. 

Her goal is to become a GYN surgical oncologist where she will be able to help women with ovarian, endometrial, cervical and other GYN cancers.

“I had a positive mental attitude through my journey with cancer. I had so much more of my life left to live and I wasn’t going to let cancer stop me,” she remarked. 

Get Stylin’ this Spring and sign up for Game Hair Havoc to help support those affected by cancer, just like Katherine. Inspire your teammates to join in on the havoc and show off your crazy game day hairstyles. It can make a meaningful impact on those who need it the most. Learn more about Game Hair Havoc by clicking here.