Certain dates hold particular significance for retired U.S. Navy Yeoman 3rd Class Alexis King. On Christmas Day 2015, King was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin lymphoma, an advanced cancer of the immune system. King underwent her first chemotherapy treatment on Valentine’s Day 2016. She ended that treatment cycle on her birthday, several months later.
“My memory’s not great but I can definitely remember those dates,” said King.
King began her military career at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and eventually deployed to Italy. When she became pregnant, King relocated to Naval Base San Diego where her son was born.
She was living out her naval career dreams when her cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment drastically impacted both her physical and emotional wellbeing.
“I remember waking up one morning to see all of my hair on the pillow…you realize it’s really happening, this is serious,” said King. From there, King descended into depression.
“I didn’t want to be seen, I didn’t want to go anywhere,” she said. “I used to be such a happy person, and [I didn’t like that] this illness was taking away my personality.”
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Navy YN3 Alexis King dons her winning sash and crown (Photo courtesy Miss California Plus America)
King decided to change her perspective, willing herself to take back control of her life.
King soon realized she could regain her sense of purpose by sharing her story to encourage others to push through life’s obstacles. As someone who never particularly enjoyed public speaking or crowds, King ultimately put herself on stage, entering a state-wide beauty pageant – and winning.
“[Winning the pageant] proved that if you just try, you never know what you can do,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to win, but I just knew that I was going to start somewhere…I wanted more from myself.”
King applies this same logic to her life today, and with support from Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor, she takes full advantage of new opportunities to challenge herself, to grow, and to heal. She credits her Recovery Care Coordinator, Norman Ramos, with expanding her horizons.
“I’m so thankful that Navy Medical Center San Diego has [the Recovery Coordination Program], because there are questions wounded warriors might not know that the Recovery Care Coordinator can help with,” said King.
King’s Recovery Care Coordinator aided her from recovery through her post-military transition process by consistently providing important information and assisting where she needed it. This includes support with financial aid, housing, medical appointments and ensuring a seamless transition to a Department of Veterans Affairs case manager. “Even though I’ve been assigned a case manager through the VA, I’m still able to call or email Norman with questions, and he makes himself available for me every time,” recalls King.
Ultimately, it was Ramos who encouraged King to attend the 2018 Navy Trials, a preliminary adaptive sports competition to determine which wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans compete for Team Navy at the 2018 DoD Warrior Games.
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Navy YN3 Alexis King expresses determination as she competes in shotput at the 2018 Navy Trials, Jacksonville, FL (DoD Warrior Care photo by Roger Wollenberg)
During her first foray into adaptive sports, King competed in nearly every event, a reflection of the “can-do” attitude she embraces these days. King then honed in on her favorites - field events, like shotput and discus, and rifle-shooting competitions – hoping to compete in Colorado at the Warrior Games.
Today, King is making it her mission to live life to the fullest, and challenging herself to leave the bounds of her comfort zone. As a result, she speaks often about her triumphant spirit. As King is fond of saying, “Why count yourself out when you don’t know what you’re capable of?”
Turns out, she’s capable of a lot. King earned a spot on Team Navy to participate in the Warrior Games, where she competed in air rifle, archery and field events.
Watch King's Journey Here...
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This story reflects interviews conducted with Alexis King during the 2018 Navy Trials and the 2018 DoD Warrior Games.