Ms. Northeast America 2012 focuses on cancer research and community

April 04, 2012|By SHADAE PAUL | Special to The Herald-Mail

A grim diagnosis on a cold February day in 2011 moved Keren Kinglow's life in a new direction.

Kinglow, 30, of Chambersburg, Pa., was told that doctors diagnosed her father, Al Kinglow, with two malignant cancers —  prostate cancer and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST), a rare tumor found in the gastrointestinal tract.

Four months was the longest they expected him to live.

For Kinglow, this was a reminder of how short life is.

"It's a big reality check when a doctor reminds you that there's a ticking clock, but you want to look at them and tell them, 'Hey, you're not going to be the judge of that. Only God can say that,'" she said.

After ongoing treatment her father was told his cancer was in remission, but the experience lit a fire inside of Kinglow. She realized if it weren't for cancer research, advancements in medicine and outreach, her dad might not have survived.

"It really changed our lives as a family and me as a person. I didn't want to keep it to myself. I wanted to do something with a purpose to give back, since we were so blessed with the medical research that's out there," Kinglow said.

In previous years Kinglow, who had a background in modeling and beauty pageants, had won Miss Panama U.S. Latina in 2005 and won second runner-up and Most Talented in the 2006 Miss Latin America pageant.

However, thinking that her pageant years were behind her, she set aside fashion and photo shoots for a few years while pursuing a degree in nursing at Oklahoma Baptist University. Later, she began working as a critical care nurse at Meritus Medical Center in Hagerstown.

After sharing her story with others, Kinglow realized her family's harrowing experience with cancer was, unfortunately, a common one.

Her call to action came when Kinglow heard about the Ms. Northeast America pageant. She decided to enter as a way to combine her pageant experience with her personal experience. She competed against contestants aged 26 and older who came from different professional and personal backgrounds, from CEOs to college students.

To compete, contestants submitted applications to the Ms. Northeast America headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif. They were judged on phone and email interviews, modeling pictures and contestant's community involvement.

On Feb. 9, Kinglow was named Ms. Northeast America. She won a crown and a sash to accompany the title.

"This is something that I am proud of," Kinglow said. "It gives me a chance to be driven and serve in different types of communities and underserved populations. This is an opportunity to help research organizations, and I know it means a lot to the families, because it meant a lot to me to have that support when my family was going through our medical crisis."

Kinglow's platform during her one-year reign is cancer prevention and research, primarily for rarer cancers.

To accomplish this goal, she has worked with many foundations, including Emmanuel Cancer Foundation in New York supporting pediatric cancer, participated in Relay for Life and promoted the GIST Research Fund, to name a few.

"God has a purpose for all of us, and it's important to follow that purpose and share that with as many people as you can," she said.

Although instant notoriety comes with a shock all its own, Kinglow remains down to earth.

"It's been a whirlwind since I've won but it's great to be a part of it. I surround myself with positive people who really believe in my platform and not just the title. Life's too short to be caught up on titles or fame or success, and that's not what I'm about," she said.

Another way she remains down to earth is by spreading pride about her small hometown while traveling nationwide.

"It's important to be proud of where you live and your community. Chambersburg is a smaller town but it's neat because we have an amazing mix of people from different places. Its awesome living somewhere that's within close distance of Maryland, Baltimore, Boston and New York. I'm proud of where I live," she said.

As reigning Ms. Northeast America, Kinglow was scheduled to compete in the upcoming Ms. America pageant held in Anaheim, Calif., Thursday, April 12, through Sunday, April 15, but decided not to compete because of her father's upcoming cancer treatments.

For Kinglow, her success has little meaning if she cannot be with her family during the hard times.

What may seem like a lot to handle Kinglow takes in stride with her support system by her side and a glistening crown on her head.

"I like to believe everything is possible," Kinglow said. "All it takes is one person who wants to make a difference and that's completely possible by just being who you are."

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