Alumni Feature: Kyle Giest, Dietetics, Supporting Young Adults with Cancer

Kyle running outside on a wooded path, The Road to Rachel | Food Science and Human Nutrition UF/IFASWe are honored to welcome Kyle Giest to our Discover FSHN Series! Kyle is an alumnus of the Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Florida. Over the past decade, Kyle has been on a journey of health and advocacy. Read on to learn about his commitment to supporting the needs of young adults with cancer, his favorite memory of UF, and the impactful fundraiser event for young adult cancer he is hosting called The Road to Rachel.

Your commitment to raising money for cancer research is inspirational! Tell me about your journey to this point.

A few years after graduating from UF (Class of 2014, BS in Biology), I was diagnosed with a rare pediatric cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. It’s a cancer of the connective tissue, found in either bone or soft tissue, with only a few hundred new diagnoses in the US per year. I went through the standard, aggressive treatment regimen at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital that consisted of 14 rounds of chemo and six weeks of radiation.

Kyle and his mother stand outside in warm coats in front of a sunrise.
Kyle with his mom, Carrie Giest, on a hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park on their way up to Cleveland for a simulation scan in preparation for radiation treatment. Header: Kyle with Dr. Kurt Weiss, orthopedic surgeon and sarcoma researcher. Dr. Weiss’s work paved the way for the clinical trial in which Kyle is currently enrolled.

The treatment was successful in that it got me into remission with no evidence of disease, but it left me both physically and mentally wounded. I found that good nutrition and exercise are huge components of regaining a sense of well-being, which eventually led to my interest in pursuing dietetics. I returned to UF and completed the required coursework to be eligible for the dietetics internship.

As fate would have it, a week before putting the deposit down for the dietetic internship (DI)—a supervised practice program that prepares future registered dietitian nutritionists for careers in dietetics—a follow-up scan showed the cancer had recurred, metastasizing to my lungs.

What did you do next?

I decided to put the DI on hold and instead, I moved to Pittsburgh, PA for the support of my family during treatment. During treatment in Pittsburgh, I learned about the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge (RCTC), a one-day 37-mi hiking challenge held each summer, and set it as a goal to complete.

Kyle and his sister stand in front of a stand of trees wearing warm coats and hats.
Kyle with his sister, Alison Giest, on a hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park during the latest round of radiation treatment at Cleveland Clinic. Profile: Kyle running on the Rachel Carson Trail while training for the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge this summer.

The cancer experience presents itself with numerous challenges–fatigue, social isolation, and depression, to name a few. I found the training process and completing the RCTC last summer helped me confront many of these challenges. After a six-month reprieve from treatment, malignant nodules reappeared, and I enrolled in a clinical trial at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. Knowing how important the RCTC has been for me, I decided to train for it again and thought it would be the perfect way to raise money for two causes: rare cancer research as well as other young adults with cancer. I’m calling the training and fundraising efforts The Road to Rachel!

What is your favorite memory of your time at UF?

Without a doubt, my favorite memories were my time co-leading the student nutrition advocacy organization, Students Eat Right (SER). It was such a great way to connect with dietetics students and professors, and I learned how advocacy is meaningful (and FUN!) Thinking about it now, my experience with SER primed me to want to engage in the advocacy work that I’m currently doing with rare and young adult cancer.

You’re returning to Gainesville and hosting a fundraiser (The Road to Rachel) on February 24th to benefit cancer research and improve the lives of those with cancer. Will you tell us about this fundraiser?

I was shocked when I learned that there has been little advancement in treatment outcomes for patients with metastasized pediatric sarcomas since the late 1980s. Exceptional scientists are searching for answers, but grassroots efforts are needed because sarcoma does not attract the federal funding of more common cancers. So, we are raising money for Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma, a nonprofit that gives grants to sarcoma researchers.

Kyle standing outside among trees wearing a sweatshirt and knit hat.
Kyle on one of the Saturday hikes that he organized on The Road to Rachel.

Additionally, young adults diagnosed with cancer have a unique set of needs that are largely unmet by the current healthcare system. Young Adult Survivors United (YASU) is a nonprofit that helps support the financial, emotional, and social needs of this population. YASU has been a huge help for me personally to connect with other young adults who share similar experiences and issues. I’m excited to support YASU’s mission through this fundraiser.

I’m visiting Gainesville in a couple weeks to host our first fundraising event of The Road to Rachel, a Full Moon Brunch Bash. We’ll have a delicious brunch by Curia on the Drag, a coffee tasting by Sweetwater Organic Coffee, a local vendor market, drag performances, and raffle items from local businesses. Needless to say, we will have some fun raising money for these causes, and we need your help! Advance tickets can be purchased here.

Fundraiser details

Location: Curia on the Drag, 2029 NW 6th Street, Gainesville, Florida
Date: Saturday, February 24
Time: 11am-2pm
Activities: Enjoy a decadent brunch and Sweetwater Organic Coffee brews, shop local vendors, watch drag performances, and enter the raffle while learning about The Road to Rachel, a fundraising drive for rare and young adult cancer.

Learn more on the fundraiser’s Facebook page and purchase tickets here.


Jessie Erwin, Nutrition Communications Consultant for the UF/IFAS FSHN department.
Posted: February 15, 2024

Category: Events, Food Science & Human Nutrition, Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Alumni, Alumni Profile, Alumni-feature, Dietetics Alumni, Dietetics-alumni-feature, FSHN Alumni, Fundraiser, Fundraising Event, Kyle Giest, Pittsburgh Cure Sarcoma, The Road To Rachel, UF Alumni, Young Adult Survivors United

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