Warwick’s Kristin Jedziniak is in training for the New York City Marathon. It will be her first marathon and she is justifiably excited about it. But it has been quite a journey that brought her to this place, a journey through shock, sadness and cancer to this place of health, wellness and a new vocation giving to others.
Like many women, Jedziniak had no family history of breast cancer. At 38, she was a healthy mom of two young sons in 2009, living here in Warwick. Previously she had worked in hotel and restaurant management and was now a daycare provider who was contemplating a change of careers.
Then, everything changed.
In 2009, she found a lump in her right breast. Less than a year earlier, she had found what turned out to be a cyst. It was aspirated and there was no sign of cancer. This time, though, it was a tumor. Stage III invasive breast cancer.
“It came out of nowhere,” said Jedziniak, who said she didn’t have any risk factors for breast cancer. She learned afterwards there is breast cancer on her paternal side but it’s not considered a risk factor.
“I thought ‘why me?’” she said. “I tried not to think too far ahead. I took it day by day. But I was numb with fear, numb with sadness. It just came out of the blue.”
She had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. She tried to maintain life as normal for her children, who were 7 and 11 at the time. Her youngest, Logan, wasn’t really aware of all she was going through and that’s what she wanted. Her older son, Dalton, was definitely more cognizant of his mom’s struggle. Eric, her husband, was her stalwart partner.
Jedziniak had her surgery at Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern and her treatments at Sloan Kettering in Westchester, both of which she gives high praise. She had been thinking of a career change before her surgery and considered nursing.
When treatment finished, she said “I was trying to get my life back,” and decided her next chapter would indeed be nursing. She was inspired, in part, by the care she received. She attended Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh on her way to her degree as a registered nurse.
Take a walk, clear your head
Meanwhile, her husband, Eric, urged her to start walking with him after the treatment. It was slow at first.
“He did it to get me out,” she said. “I was walking to clear my mind.”
She liked walking and all the benefits that come with it, mentally and physically.
“I was never athletic but I enjoyed everything about walking – the freeness, the openness it gave my mind.”
Then she started running. It had many of the same benefits of walking and more.
De ja vu
In her final semester in 2015, Jedziniak was dealt another blow – at a routine visit, her oncologist found a lump. It was invasive stage II breast cancer in her left breast.
“This time, I knew what to expect,” said Jedziniak. She had the second mastectomy and chemotherapy. This time, both her boys asked many questions and were well aware of what their mom was going through. Friends and family helped, as they had the first time.
What she hadn’t known was that her running was a benefit even when it came to cancer.
“My body was in much better shape than it was after the first surgery,” she said. “When you’re healthy, you heal quicker.” And that’s just what happened for her.
While fighting her cancer the second time, Jedziniak also finished her degree in nursing, graduating from Mount St. Mary College on schedule. She became a nurse at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Westchester in the pediatric intensive care unit, night shift. This is a tough gig.
“It can be emotional,” she said.
Her running helps with that stress as well.
Running the race
Jedziniak’s running has continued over these last few years. She has increased the length of her runs, running three miles at a time as of last March. She began to train for a half marathon when a friend, who is a marathon runner, suggested she run the New York City Marathon. She started a 16-week training program in June to do just that.
She applied with the hospital, which includes Westchester Medical Center as well as St. Anthony Community Hospital, for one of the 10 slots they have in the NYC marathon. And she got it.
In order to participate, she has to raise $3,000, which will be donated to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. She past that goal, upped it to $3,500 and at press time has exceeded that goal as well.
Her training has become a marathon as well, with support from Eric.
“In September, I ran 18 miles and got terrible blisters. I couldn’t run anymore,” she said. “Eric got me working out. He pushes me.”
She and a group of eight colleagues ran the Healing Half Marathon + 6 on Oct. 6, running a total of 20 miles that day.
And now she is ready for the big race on Sunday, Nov. 3, in the city.
“I’m excited and nervous,” Jedziniak said about the storied marathon. “A lot of people have said ‘take it all in and enjoy the race.’ I’ll take it slow and steady.”
“People say I’m inspirational,” said Jedziniak. “It was what life dealt me and I dealt with it.”
As for marathon Sunday, she plans to deal with that – and enjoy it - as well.
“I’ll start slow and take it all in,” she said. “Crossing the finish line is my ‘win’.”
“I thought ‘why me?’ I tried not to think too far ahead. I took it day by day. But I was numb with fear, numb with sadness. It just came out of the blue.”
“People say I’m inspirational. It was what life dealt me and I dealt with it.”