Growing up, Kristina was always an active and outgoing girl who was frequently a part of her school’s cheerleading and dance teams. But during her junior year of high school, she began to experience pain in her lower abdomen. After a series of doctor’s appointments and exams, scans revealed that Kristina had a mass on her right kidney. While doctors initially suspected the mass was kidney cancer, a biopsy revealed that it was in fact Ewing sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
Kristina was referred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where she underwent a year of chemotherapy, followed by 49 rounds of radiation therapy. Currently, she is finished with treatment and visits St. Jude every three months for checkups. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90 percent, and we won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
During her time as a St. Jude patient, Kristina was fortunate to befriend a fellow patient named Markell. Because of their proximity in age, Kristina and Markell formed a special bond that helped them through some of their most difficult moments. “There were times that I wanted to give up,” said Kristina. “But Markell always helped because he never gave up.”
Unfortunately, Markell passed away in February 2016. Currently, Kristina plans to draw even more inspiration from Markell as she wants to connect with other St. Jude patients and share his story. “I want to honor his legacy by sharing his story, but also let it serve as an inspiration for current St. Jude patients,” said Kristina. “I want to help other patients be unstoppable like Markell.”