HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Kriste Lewis, 41, has again made the Saintsations cheerleader roster.
Lewis auditioned for the team last year as a fitness goal, and a 40th birthday gift to herself. She immediately garnered national recognition for her accomplishment.
"It was a whirlwind. It went by so fast, and it was such an amazing experience," said Lewis of her first season with the team. "It brought so much joy to my life, I felt like I just had to do it again."
Her story became even more inspirational because of her illness. She was diagnosed 15 years ago with polycystic kidney disease; a disease that will eventually require dialysis, a kidney transplant, and currently has no cure.
"I honestly had no idea that anyone would be interested in my story, but just being able to share it with people, I think has really been a blessing for me," Lewis said. "I was very guilty of not letting people know about my health issues, and this has kind of been able to give me a platform to discuss that and to be a voice for others."
For the moment, she remains positive and enjoys her many trips with the team and her fellow cheerleaders. There are 36 members on the squad, nine of those members being from the Hattiesburg area.
Although the girl time, pom-poms, and uniforms are fun, Lewis is also a wife and mother of two boys, 12 and 15 years old. She balances her time between the Superdome, and her home with grace.
"The difference between Sunday and Monday is that on Sunday, I'm in the Superdome, there are 80,000 fans, we're cheering, dancing, signing autographs, taking pictures, and on Monday morning, I'm right back into mom mode," Lewis said with a laugh. "I'm ironing school uniforms, making school lunches. It's such a contrast and I love that."
The Saintsations only allow each member a maximum of four years on the team. Tentatively, Lewis plans to audition next year as well.
"I would love to do it as many times as I can," said Lewis. "A lot of that will depend on my family situation, right now with our family dynamics it works really well. My boys are old enough to understand and really enjoy what we're doing. As long as it works with my family, and my health is good, I would love to continue to do it for four years."