Local Runner Going the Distance for Dana Farber

Jen Young (left) and Christina Smith. Smith has a special reason to raise funds for Dana Farber since her friend, Young, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Winthrop resident Christina Smith has run a couple of 5Ks and is training vigorously for the Boston Athletic Association’s (BAA) Half Marathon presented by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. And now that her friend, Jen Yong, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, she is even more motivated to participate in the Half Marathon to lend support and eventually work her way up to the Boston Marathon.

“A half marathon is nothing compared to what they [cancer patients] go through,” says Christina, 29. “Learning about the processes involved in keeping cancer in a controlled and manageable state is horrifying and eye opening.”

Seven-thousand runners and professional athletes will take part in the BAA Half Marathon on Sunday, October 7th. The 13.1 mile race begins and ends in White Stadium in Boston’s Franklin Park, and features a course that travels along Boston’s Emerald Necklace.

Christina met Jen in 2001 while working together at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Their bond became closer after Jen was diagnosed last year; they became each other’s encouragement and incentive to be resilient.

“She’s the strongest person I know,” says Christina. “I’m amazed by her.”

And 32-year-old Jen marvels just as much at her friend. Christina has a strict workout regimen that involves waking up early to run before taking a bus to work, and after a long day, comes home to run another mile with Jen. The two began running together to excite Jen to stay active. Since radiation makes her body sore and she wants to nap often, running with Christina keeps Jen alert.

After getting laid off from New England Institute of Art, Jen wanted to use up her health insurance before it expired. She had not gotten a physical examination in over a year, and had noticed a lump in her breast, but dismissed it. Three rounds of testing later – an ultrasound, mammogram, and biopsy – doctors informed Jen that she had stage 2B cancer. It was invasive and spread to her lymph nodes and underneath her arms.

The first thought that came to Jen’s mind was losing her hair.

“So much of your identity being a girl, is being able to cut your hair and dye it,” says Jen.

Jen underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy that left her nauseous and weak, had a left side mastectomy, and is currently undergoing 28 treatments of radiation. Following that draining period is a six month break, and then breast reconstruction surgery.

“A lot of people aren’t aware that younger people go through it [cancer]. It seems like something older women go through,” Jen comments about breast cancer.

As an outlet and to raise awareness, Jen started a blog (BTWUHaveCancerJen.BlogSpot.com) that documents from the beginning of when she was diagnosed to now. It includes personal accounts and video clips of her talking about surgery.

Jen and Christina organized a Half Marathon fundraiser on October 1st at Lucky Strike in Boston for people to make donations for Christina’s run. Lucky Strike donated four lanes with free bowling and shoe rentals for anyone who wanted to have a fun evening with the ladies.

Visit Christina’s fundraising page at www.RunDanaFarber.org./BAAHalf2012/ChristinaSmith. To support a runner in the BAA Half Marathon, go to www.RunDanaFarber.org/BAAHalf.

“She’s my inspiration. If she’s making it through all of these treatments, I can definitely run 13 miles,” says Christina.

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