Rox honor cancer survivor who helps raise awareness

Bat Girl contest winner speaks to groups about early detection

Rox honor cancer survivor who helps raise awareness

DENVER -- Katie Parker has had frequent visitors to her desk at her job as a long-range planning administrator for Rapid City, S.D. Decorating the desk is the bright pink Louisville Slugger bat she received as the Rockies' Honorary Bat Girl Contest winner, part of Major League Baseball's annual breast cancer awareness program.

"People kept stopping at my desk to see it and touch it," Parker said after being the guest of honor on Sunday at Coors Field for the Rockies' 4-3 victory over the Mets. "They wanted to go out and play a game with it. I said no."

Although the longtime Rockies fan and cancer survivor won't allow folks to hit balls with her bat decorated with the message "Genuine: I can & I will. Watch me," she does plenty to spread awareness.

"I'm asked to speak probably three to five times a year," Parker said. "I used this as an opportunity to raise awareness of breast cancer and educate others on the importance of early detection. I'll speak to anyone who will have me -- church groups, employers who want me to speak to their employees, and I've even spoken to a group of men at Sam's Club."

Parker was diagnosed with invasive ductal breast cancer in 2010, at age 36. She underwent a partial mastectomy, and because the disease didn't meet the criteria for chemotherapy, she underwent six weeks of radiation treatment. She has been cancer-free since. Recent American Cancer Society guidelines recommend screenings for women in their 40s, but Parker said the results would have been tragic had she waited that long. She received her screening for free when she worked for Dakota Radiology in Rapid City.

Since then, Parker has urged women to learn their family history and take the screenings seriously. Parker's work before the diagnosis prepared her to speak out on these issues.

A Nebraska native, Parker was transferred to the Denver area by LaMar's Donuts, for whom she honed her speaking skills as communications coordinator. She later moved to Rapid City, where he parents live. While working for Dakota Radiology, she learned the process of how folks with abnormal screenings are informed, how medical personnel arrive at a diagnosis and the surgical and treatment patterns and procedures.

Now Parker can inform others.

"It's been a big part of my life, breast cancer," Parker said. "It gave me a passion I didn't have before. I needed it in my life. Cancer for me can be a blessing. It can make you bitter or better. I chose to have it make me better."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.