13 years later, Kevin Shortelle is a voice for cancer survivors

Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 10:51 p.m.
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Kevin Shortelle, of Gainesville, checks out his outfit for the upcoming Cure By Design fashion show fundraiser, Friday, February 24, 2006 at Wishful Thinking Western World in Gainesville. Shortelle, a survivor of non-hodgkins lymphoma, has modeled Western World's clothes in the show for the past several years.

BRIANA BROUGH/The Gainesville Sun


Fund-raiser is Sunday

  • What: 16th Annual Cure By Design, a fashion show fund-raiser for the Alachua Unit of the American Cancer Society, featuring 100 cancer survivors as models
  • When: 5 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Phillips Center for Performing Arts, UF campus
  • Tickets: $15 for fashion show only; $100 for show and catered cocktail buffet reception and silent auction at 6:15 p.m. at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Auction items include an autographed Lance Armstrong jersey and a dinner with UF coaches Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan.
  • Contact: 376-6866, ext. 110

  • The pain started as a slight twinge in Kevin Shortelle's elbow.
    He thought perhaps he had injured it at the gym, where he worked out three times a week. But over the next few weeks, it grew more intense, spreading up and down his arm and into his shoulder. His doctor recommended physical therapy and prescribed painkillers but still could not relieve the pain or determine its cause.
    The doctor referred Shortelle to a neurologist at North Florida Regional Hospital, where an MRI revealed the source: a 3-inch tumor on his upper spinal cord, which was sending the pain to his arm.
    Just a month shy of his 38th birthday in May 1993, Shortelle had told his wife, Ann, that he was in the best shape of his life - a non-smoker, he was eating well and exercising regularly. Four weeks later, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphoid tissue. His daughters, Jennifer and Janet, were just 2 and 4 years old at the time.
    "You're not as invincible as you think you are," says Shortelle, one of 100 cancer survivors who will model in Sunday's Cure By Design fashion show to benefit the Alachua Unit of the American Cancer Society.
    Shortly after his diagnosis, Shortelle, manager of Gainesville's office of the engineering firm System Dynamics International, underwent surgery on the tumor at Shands Cancer Center, followed by radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
    "It wiped me out," he says of the radiation. "To say I was lethargic was an understatement."
    Toward the end of the radiation, Shortelle didn't even want to go to his treatments anymore; he credits Ann with getting him through it.
    Two goals that Shortelle set for himself gave him focus while recovering from the radiation: One, to attend a Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game in September of that year with his college roommate, which he did (his alma mater, Notre Dame, won, 27-23.) And two, to get back to the gym by the end of the year. He achieved that as well, making his first trip back in December 1993. He's been on his regular workout schedule ever since.
    In 2000, Shortelle became one of the first four men to model for Cure By Design when one of the event's organizers, Fran Maris, invited him to take part.
    "A lot of times, men don't talk about it," Maris says. She hoped that incorporating male models into the show would send the message that "it's OK to talk about cancer."
    Though the 2000 show was the first time that Shortelle had been involved with the Cancer Society, he soon began making up for lost time. He's participated in the show and spring fund-raiser Relay for Life every year since, joined the board of of the Cancer Society's Alachua Unit in September 2000, and this year he's both board president and Relay for Life team development chairperson.
    "It's as close to Chippendale's as I'm going to get," Shortelle says of modeling for the show. "I have fun with it."
    The event also gives him a chance to be with fellow cancer survivors and those who are still battling the disease.
    "It's a humbling experience when I participate every year."
    For Bonnie Mott, her husband's death puts cancer in perspective Bonnie Mott has a brave smile. Mott, who will model in her first Cure By Design show on Sunday, is recounting her battle with breast cancer in 1998. But it's a much more recent pain that causes her eyes to fill.
    Mott's husband of 34 years, Larry, died of a heart attack in January at age 56. The two were high school sweethearts, dating their senior year at Gainesville High School.
    "He had been excited about (Cure By Design)," Mott says.
    Larry, who was pastor of Faith United Methodist Church, was also Mott's partner in changing her diet and exercise after she was diagnosed.
    During the summer of 1998, Mott noticed that part of the skin on her left breast was dimpled. Doctors discovered a 2-centimeter tumor growing beneath the skin and diagnosed her with Stage II breast cancer.
    "When you're first diagnosed, you don't know what to think," Mott says.
    She had two surgeries to remove the cancer, then began a course of radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Though she suffered from fatigue, and radiation caused the skin of her breast to blister, Mott continued her work as owner of Prudential Preferred Properties of Gainesville.
    "I thought the best thing for me to do was keep working," she says.
    Mott thought she had found a silver lining to the treatment: She figured, "Well, at least I'll lose some weight," she says. Then doctors informed her that the type of chemotherapy she would receive actually causes patients to retain fluids. She gained 20 pounds, but now chuckles at the added insult.
    Since completing treatment in March 1999, Mott has had no reappearance of the cancer, and she has gotten involved with the American Cancer Society, participating in Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Though she still feels apprehensive that the cancer might have returned when it comes time for her mammogram each year, she doesn't let it control her life.
    "You pack it away in the back of your mind," she says.
    Mott has put breast cancer behind her; and in retrospect, it now pales in comparison to the grief she feels over the loss of her husband.
    "Time will help this, too," she says. Now, as then, she relies on the support of friends and her three children, Greg, Candy and Travis, who all live in Gainesville.
    "I have lots of friends and they've been keeping me busy," Mott says. "It'd be real easy to just withdraw."
    And, as she did during her illness, Mott has continued working since her husband's death.
    "You just keep on going," she says. "Everything just keeps going."
    Cure by Design is crucial for local cancer patients
    More than $1 million has been raised by the Cure by Design fashion show over its 15 years in Gainesville. That money supports research, educational programs and local programs for cancer patients, including Gainesville's Winn Dixie Hope Lodge, which provides a place for cancer patients and their families to stay while they receive treatment. So successful is Gainesville's Cure by Design that the event has spread to five other cities nationwide.
    All 100 men, women and children who will model for Sunday's event are cancer survivors.
    "It celebrates the survivorship of cancer," says Cure By Design executive council member Fran Maris. In addition to raising cancer awareness, the event provides critical funds for the Alachua Unit of the American Cancer Society, Maris says. This year's event has a safari theme, featuring clothing from local retailers and national designers.

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