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Friday, March 20, 2015

Fort Thomas Resident Campaigns for LLS Woman of the Year

“I’ve had a saying since I was diagnosed which is ‘you can sulk, or you can have sushi’; I am inspired by people who choose sushi.” – Kristin Guerra, 32 year-old Fort Thomas wife, mother, and cancer survivor.

Guerra was diagnosed with stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on March 14, 2009, less than 6 months from her wedding day.  Six years and six days later, cancer-free, happily married and the proud mother of a three-year-old boy, Guerra stands ready to kick off her campaign for the title of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) “Man & Woman of the Year”.  Her kickoff event to this ten-week fundraising campaign is tonight with her #thismatters Launch Party, which she jokingly refers to as “bigger than her wedding” and at which Ben Walz will perform, Funky’s will provide the catering, and the more than 200 guests will have the opportunity to bid on close to 50 auction items.  All the proceeds from this and Guerra’s other five events go toward the LLS which uses the funds for research and development, blood cancer education and support, patient support, accelerated treatment approvals, and blood cancer advocacy.  Throughout the history of the campaign, more than $1 Billion has been raised for this cause.

Guerra, a P&G employee and avid CrossFit fanatic, was nominated for the campaign by her co-worker and former Woman of the Year winner.  Inspired to get involved and seeing a clear path to do so, Guerra accepted the challenge.  “This was my opportunity to make that choice and it inspired the theme for my campaign which is, ‘Do Something That Matters’.  Complete with its very own hashtag #thismatters”.  In the competition, nominees spend ten weeks raising as much money as possible with each dollar raised counting as a vote.  At the end of the competition, the person who raised the most money is crowned the “winner”.  But the real “winner” is LLS and the cancer-research efforts they fund.  Many of you avid readers may remember last year’s “Street Class” series on Jamie (Baker) Rausch (story link here) who raised just over $90,000 in her campaign last year and who began a cookbook to raise money as part of her response to her 2006 diagnosis.

In addition to the kickoff event tonight, Guerra will also host a wine tasting event in Oakley, an indoor cycling class at Cycle Bar, a CrossFit competition at NewCov CrossFit (her gym of choice), a family bowling party at Stone’s where donors’/volunteers’ kids would be sponsored for each pin they knock down, and a Kentucky Derby and Fireworks party.  She also has an army of volunteers across the country, including many in her hometown of Pittsburgh, who will be hosting events and she encourages people who want to get involved but cannot attend one of the events to donate to her personal donation page here or purchase a table at the Woman of the Year Grand Finale Gala.

But why the sushi line to begin this story, you may ask?  Allow Guerra to tell her story in her own words:

“Yes, I’m thankful that I had cancer.  Sounds strange, but I had a defining moment that seemingly changed my outlook on many things that have come along since then.  I was diagnosed on Saturday March 14, 2009.  I was also released from the hospital that day.  The entire day I distinctly remember thinking, “How am I ever going to go back to living a normal life?”  The idea of work, cleaning the house & just hanging out with friends seemed like monumental tasks that were previously minutia.  I felt like everything just stopped.  That nothing & no one could make me feel “normal” again.

But then later that night, Jimmy asked if I wanted to do anything or go anywhere, probably suggesting that he’d go pick up some take out or something casual.  “What did I want to do?” I thought to myself.  I wanted to crawl in a hole and cry, and not look at anyone or talk about anything for a long time.  But instead, I told him I wanted to go out for sushi.  Sushi?  I think he thought I was crazy.  In the past 36 hours I just had a pretty major surgery, couldn’t move my neck & had gotten news that I had the C-word…who thinks about raw fish at a time like this!?  

I realized later that it wasn’t about the fish.

 It was that it made things feel normal.  Sushi was something we would usually do on a Saturday night.  It was not going out of the way to do things differently.  It gave me peace of mind that we could continue living the next 6 months as we had the last 6 months, and that is exactly what we did.  We played co-ed softball & flag football.  We went out with friends.  We went to the Kentucky Derby.  We planned a wedding (that happened <2 weeks after I finished chemo & radiation). We lived life as though the cancer didn’t exist, and this taught me a very important lesson that no one could have explained to me (even though I’d probably already heard it a million times)…

Situations (and life in general) are what you make of them.

You can sulk.  OR   You can have sushi.” 

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