Being A Warrior Is In My Blood

My name Kristine Bahe-Sprigler. I am half Native American and half Caucasian. When I was diagnosed with cervical cancer I had to lean on my heritage for my source of strength. It was a great reminder of the those that came before me and what it meant to have their blood run through mine.

I am from the “Zuni” Clan which is my father’s mother’s clan and “The Water Flow Together” Clan is my paternal grandfather’s clan. This is what defines me as Navajo and is determined from matrilineality.

Navajo women are the matriarch and we (all Navajo’s) introduce ourselves by clan which identifies and defines relationships between individuals and families. When you meet someone with one or more of your same clan, you become related by clan. You can also tell a region by someone’s clan.

The Navajo Nation occupies portions of Southeastern Utah, Northeastern Arizona, and Northwestern New Mexico – the capital being Window Rock, AZ.

You can find hogans on the reservation, which are primarily built from logs and mud. The door always faces East to welcome the sun each morning for wealth and good fortune. Some are used for dwellings, but others are used for ceremonial purposes and regarded as sacred.

My grandfather, Roy Begay, was part of the original 29 U.S. Marines that were recruited and served as a Navajo Code Talker in World War II. He proudly served his country and is a recipient of Congressional Medal of Honor.

My mother is of Irish, English and German heritage. She comes from a very creative line. My grandfather was a musician and played in the U.S. Army band traveling around the bases and performing. He came from a very musical family. I learned to love music by watching my grandfather play while growing up. I chose to play alto sax and piano starting in the fifth grade and played in Jazz and marching bands. My grandmother was a professional dancer traveling between New York and Cuba performing with a partner until she chose to stop dancing to start a family.

My great-great grandfather on my mothers side, George Washington Taggart, was part of the journey of the Mormon Battalion, which was comprised of about 500 Latter-Day Saints that joined the U.S. Army during the Mexican American war, which made several contributions to the settlement of the American West.

I believe my strength comes from both sides of my family. We come from a long line of warriors. I was diagnosed with stage I cervical cancer in 2012 when I was 34 years old to which I received a radical hysterectomy. The decisions leading to that were difficult and heart wrenching as I wasn’t sure our family was complete. I suffered from anxiety and depression for a few years after. Being diagnosed with cancer is difficult – it teaches you humility and vulnerability all the while showing you what strength you possess even years later.

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to paying tribute to the ancestry and traditions of Native Americans. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the disparities American Indian and Alaska Native women are facing with cervical cancer. According to the American Indian Cancer Foundation, American Indian and Alaska Native women are nearly twice as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to white women and four times as likely to die from it.

Those are statistics I would like to help change. Cervical cancer is preventable. I share my story to remind you to be proactive with your health. Make those uncomfortable gynecologist/prevention visits and ask about the HPV vaccination for your child(ren).

At the age of 34, Kristine was diagnosed with stage I squamous cell carcinoma. She has found healing and purpose in sharing her story and in advocacy. After her dark and lonely experience with cancer, her goal was and continues to be to empower others to be shame resilient. She became a Cervivor Ambassador after attending Cervivor School in 2016 and she is currently in her 9th year of survivorship with no evidence of disease.

We Told Cancer to Go Fly a Kite!

On Saturday, the cancer community came together to share a unified message: Cancer Can Go Fly a Kite! And it was nothing short of amazing! There were so many beautiful photos, videos, and virtual kites shared. It reminded us of one very important message, we are always stronger together. 

Read the Kickoff Message from Our Founder, Tamika Felder.

Cancer Can Go Fly a Kite!

Cancer Screenings: We want others to understand, the global pandemic put a dramatic halt on cancer screening rates and cancer diagnoses. Though rates are climbing back up, they are still not at pre-pandemic levels and it’s a problem. We know that prevention and early detection saves lives.

Have you scheduled your cancer screenings yet? Stay up-to-date on age and risk appropriate guidelines by speaking with your doctor and utilizing the American Cancer Society’s Quick Reference Guide.

Caregivers: Support those who support you. Caregivers deal with so much when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer that they often forget they need support too. We are so grateful for the caregivers in our community.

Community: Cancer can feel isolating and it can make you feel lonely but when you find your community, it can make things feel less scary. The Fort Independence Warriors in New York know all about the word community. They showed up loud and proud for #CCGFAK.

Cancer Disparities: Despite all of the improvements in technology and treatment, cancer disparities are still happening. We will continue to raise awareness on cancer disparities and share our stories to make a difference.

Global Outreach: Cancer impacts us all across the globe. We have patient advocates speaking up in Kenya, Honduras, and Saint Lucia (and many more countries) because…

Cancer remains to be the third leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases in Kenya. Milicent and Sally use their voices to make a difference.

“So that everyone knows the importance of HPV vaccination. And to our Kenyan government to know the importance of cancer survivors – when survivors share their journey they give hope to newly diagnosed patients.” – Milicent, Kenya

“Cancer made me lose some parts of my body. Let it go fly a kite. #MakingCancerPay” – Sally, Kenya

And to change the statistics for the 56,000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean that are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year like Kadiana and Karla.

“Cancer has changed my life physically, emotionally and mentally. Although I’ve learnt to accept that I am fat and forgetful with stiff joints and many scars, cancer can go fly a kite because I am also more courageous, resilient and have a profound respect for life.” – Kadiana, Saint Lucia

“I want everyone to be able to enjoy each day, people, pets, and life. Cancer can go fly a kite and let us all live freely and healthy.” – Karla, Honduras

Survivorship: The good news is cancer deaths have declined dramatically but survivorship and quality of life matters. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase by 31%, to 20.3 million, by 2026 and it is expected that 2 out of 3 Americans diagnosed with cancer will live at least 5 years after diagnosis.

Clinical Trials: Educating others about clinical trials because only 5% of adults with cancer will participate in them. Clinical trials are a great way to help others and gain access to the latest treatment options before they are available to everyone else.

Prevention Tips: We know prevention and early detection saves lives but what can we do to help prevent cancer? We gathered a list of helpful tips to share!

To Honor: We took the time to remember and honor those in our community who are no longer able to tell their stories. We carry their memories with us every day and find new ways to honor them.

Bernie Brennan flew a kite a kite in Ireland for her daughter, Laura Brennan. Laura was a Cervivor Ambassador and sadly, died from cervical cancer in 2019. While she was alive, she served as a Cervivor Ambassador and advocated for HPV vaccination and cancer prevention. During her short time with us, Laura made a massive impact to increase HPV vaccinations. We thank the Brennan family for sharing this day to honor Laura.

Thank You

A huge thank you to Rubius Therapeutics for sponsoring our Cancer Can Go Fly a Kite event and for continuing to find new and improved treatments for HPV-related cancers. To find out more, visit their website: