For Kayla, Liz, Meghan, Christina and Vanessa, taking on the 2015 Bank of America Chicago Marathon was a group decision. Their friend, Kristina, was about to undergo a preventive double mastectomy and was running to both challenge and distract herself from her upcoming surgery. Her friends, eager to show their support, didn’t think twice before deciding to join her.
Kristina was diagnosed with a BRCA-1 gene mutation at 25. Several years, a marriage and a baby later, the reality of Kristina’s risk hit home when she discovered a lump in her breast.
“I had to wait seven days [for the biopsy to come back]. I didn’t know my results, but I knew my risk,” she said. “I was so upset that I didn’t take action, didn’t get genetic counseling and didn’t do anything to help myself.”
A few Google searches later, Kristina found Bright Pink and, with it, a support network of high-risk women like herself.
Though her tumor came back benign, Kristina decided to undergo a risk-reducing double mastectomy. With several months left before her surgery, Kristina needed a distraction. That’s when she received an email about running the Chicago Marathon with Team Bright Pink.
“I’d never run a marathon, half-marathon, or even a 10k before. I’d probably only done 3 miles…ever!” she said.
But Kristina wouldn’t be running alone. Five other women joined her to show their support, including her sister, Vanessa, and childhood neighbor, Kayla.
“We definitely motivated each other throughout training,” Kayla laughed. “Kristina sent us positive emails before a run or after a hard run saying things like ‘I know it’s 85 degrees in July, but we’re going to feel so good after this!’”
For Kristina, her friend’s involvement wasn’t just about a marathon.
“They really put their lives on hold for this. They flew all the way to Chicago to run this marathon!” she said. “[My friends really] went all-in with me.”
So “all-in,” in fact, that Kristina and Kayla decided to commit more of their time to Bright Pink. This Spring, the pair will be going through Bright Pink University to become official Ambassadors.
“I want to spread the word to everyone, including average-risk women like myself,” Kayla said. “It’s so easy to run from something that isn’t a problem right now, but who is to say it won’t be a problem in the future?”
Inspired by the help she received from Bright Pink, Kristina wants to use her position as an ambassador to pay it forward.
“To [be able to] share my story — knowing it could potentially change somebody’s life — is truly amazing.”
To learn more about Team Bright Pink or sign up for a race, including the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, visit TeamBrightPink.org.