“ Fate whispers to the warrior, “you cannot withstand the storm” and the warrior whispers back “I am the storm”
Kristian Fesel is an athletic Brain Tumour mAss Kicker from South Africa. He is one of only 13 triathletes to have completed all 12 Ironman South Africa races (Swimming 3.86 km (2.40 mi) Cycling 180.25 km (112 mi) Running 42.2 km (26.2 mi).) He is the owner and a coach at Smart Tri Triathlon Club. He also has over 20 years of sales experience in South Africa. We were fortunate to meet him online and interview him as the next Featured mAss Kicker!
mK: Thank you for doing the interview Kristian! How did you find out about your diagnosis?
KF: I had a seizure/mild stroke at home and was rushed to the emergency rooms of my local hospital by paramedics where they did a CT scan. The following day they did a full MRI to see exactly what they were dealing with. I was diagnosed with a benign meningioma in the front left lobe. It was the size of a billiard ball.
They discovered it on the 12th April and it was taken out on the 16th April. They were worried that they would not be able to remove it all as it was close to a main artery. It was successfully removed in a 6 1/2 hour operation.
The crazy part is that I did a full ironman triathlon only 12 weeks after the operation.
mK: WOW! What were your initial symptoms?
KF: None at the time but when I looked back I had two incidents where I fell over and my handwriting had deteriorated badly over 6 months. I couldn’t even sign my full signature.
mK: That is awesome! What motivates you?
KF: I have a beautiful family (wife and 2 kids) and they are my main motivation in life.
mK: Who is your personal hero?
KF: My wife. She kept calm and was very strong when my whole episode happened. She is rock solid and I owe my life to her.
mK: You were very blessed to have her with you on this journey. Let’s get to know you better… What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
KF: I’m a sensitive soul at the best of times but when I see the bad things going on in the world it brings me to tears. The banter I share with my mates makes me laugh a lot. I try not fret over silly stuff and get angry but my kids Madison 8 and Aiden 6 do drive me up the wall sometimes.
mK: Hee hee hee… kids… What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
KF: I have done the highest bungee jump in the world and cage shark dived but probably the 14 Ironman races I have completed 😉
mK: What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
KF: My personal challenge is the thought that I came close to dying and that my kids would grow up without a father. There is also the nagging thought that the tumor will come back I suppose,
mK: Hmmmm… South African beer… If you could some how learn about the future you, but have no ability to change it. Would you want to know? Why?
KF: No… nothing. Life is full of surprises and that’s what makes it interesting. It’s how you react to situations that is the important part.
mK: What are is next on your agenda?
KF: An inspirational quote tattooed on my rib cage but don’t tell me wife lol. (I already have 4 tattoos but she doesn’t want me to get another one). They say it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission haha
mK: HAHAHA… Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
KF: Don’t let it weigh you down. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. It is how you deal with it going forward that counts.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
KF: Gosh, with social media these days nothing is a secret anymore… I went to the air force after school and my previous employers in the UK told everybody I was an ex fighter pilot haha. Also I am one of only 13 athletes to have completed all 12 Ironman South Africa races. I win the brain tumor ass kicker category every time.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
KF: You have two choices in life. You can choose to be morbid and feel like the world is on your shoulders and feel sorry for yourself or you can be optimistic and beat what life throws at you.
My mantra: Fate whispers to the warrior, “you cannot withstand the storm” and the warrior whispers back “I am the storm”
Kristian Fesel: South African Ironman, Air Force alumni, tattoo addict, beer connoisseur, bungee jumper, shark cage diver, loving husband and father, and proactive brain tumor “thriver”. Thanks for doing the interview Kristian. We hope to meet you in South Africa in November! Thank you for proving that people can still accomplish great things after a tumour or cancer diagnosis!