Thursday, April 3, 2014


Not long after we moved to Japan, we got new neighbors.  Neighbors who would turn out to be some of our best friends.  John had been living in their quarters for a few weeks when Kristin and their son Ethan joined him.  They had been in Japan for all of a day when I knocked on their door and said, "My mom's in town and I'm taking her into Tokyo for the day.  Want to come with us?"  They said yes and thankfully, we became fast friends.  Over the 18 months we shared walls, we did so much together.

We fukubukuro shopped together.

We celebrated holiday's together.

We toured Japan together.

We rang in the new year together.

Along the way, I learned Kristin's story.  Today I'm sharing her story, in her own words, with you.

       On December 22, 2006 at the age of twenty five I got the call no one that age is expecting. My doctor confirmed that I had Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. The next seven months of my life revolved around my illness. I was at the hospital sometimes five days a week. I endured some very painful and evasive tests in order to stage my disease. I had heart scans, CT scans, and a PET scans, tissue and bone marrow biopsies, among others. After a week of poking and prodding I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Large B cell T cell rich Non Hodgkins Lymphoma…thats  a mouth full I know.  I was immediately scheduled to have a port placed in my chest with direct access to my jugular vein to receive chemotherapy. I had a bulky tumor in  my left sinus cavity and due to the proximity to my brain I needed to have chemo delivered directly into my spine in addition to the chemo I received in my port. I started chemo about two weeks after I was diagnosed with cancer. Due to some complications with the spinal chemo I spent Ethan's 4th birthday in the hospital. John was able to come down to Texas from Oklahoma for the weekend and attend Ethan's birthday so at least one of us was there. Over the next six months I was pumped full of poison every 21 days, and it wreaked havoc on my body! When it was all said and done I had three surgeries, one round of spinal chemo, and 6 rounds of RCHOP chemo. I took daily pain, and nausea meds as needed, in addition to steroids, and the sometimes 3x a week injections to keep my blood cell counts at an acceptable level.(John and I were apart for nearly the whole ordeal because he was training in OK and MO and I choose to be treated in Houston at M D Anderson Cancer Center) I weighed in at under 100 lbs by the end of it all, but was pronounced in complete remission, and finished my final round of chemo in May of 2007. I was very thin, bald, and sick, but cancer free. It was a start! It took about a year to feel semi normal again. A year after the cancer I was still in pretty bad shape health wise. I was sick often, and very weak. I decided to join Team in Training just one year after going into remission. When I started it took me about 20 minutes to walk a mile. 6 months later, with the help of Team in Training, my father , sister, and I completed a half marathon in under 3 hours. This was an amazing feat for me physically, and at that point a testament to the fact that cancer had not beaten me! In addition to completing the race we raised nearly $6000 for the LLS. 9 months later my father, sister  and I completed a second 1/2 marathon and this time my mom joined us. In 2011 I completed the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. The entire race proceeds go to the LLS, and I cannot express what a great feeling it was to cross that finish line 26.2 miles! In all, my family and friends have raised close to 10k in my honor, and I hope that one day there will be no need for the LLS. I have been blessed immensely by this organization. When I was sick they paid for things like parking, and milage for the drives to the hospital, and once I was no longer a patient they helped my get my health and confidence back through Team in Training. I have participated in two Relay for Life events in two states, and they are awesome! At this point I have been in complete remission for nearly 7 years!

This is just a glimpse of my story. There really is so much more, but I don't want to bore anyone.

Photo courtesy of Suzanne C. Photography

Kristin is one of the strongest, most selfless and inspiring women I know, not to mention GORGEOUS!  I'm so incredibly grateful that our paths crossed and she calls me a friend.  This year, I'm joining the fight against cancer in her honor.  I'm so glad she kicked cancer's a$$ and came out stronger on the other end.  If you want to help me help those who are fighting cancer, please consider a donation to my Relay for Life team.



Kris said...

Thanks Jess for going in the fight to beat this horrible disease!