Krista Jurista has every intention of continuing a tradition she began three years ago, just weeks after she finished treatment for a particularly serious form of cancer.
When the victory lap is held at the Canadian Cancer Society's Relay for Life, May 11-12 at Masich Place Stadium, the married mother of two and teacher at Duchess Park Secondary School will be among the cancer survivors who will be participating.
"I wear my yellow shirt with strength and being proud of myself for sure," Jurista said when asked what thoughts go through her mind when she takes to the track. "And it's nice to see the other people too who have gone through it and beaten it."
In fall 2010, Jurista noticed a lump in her neck and subsequent tests and a biopsy revealed she had stage 3 Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of blood cancer that, according to the society, starts when the lymphocytes, the white blood cell that fights infection, behave abnormally.
They usually emerge in a group of lymph nodes in one part of the body, most often the chest, neck or under the arms and spread in a predictable, orderly way from one group of lymph nodes to the next.
Stage 3 is reached when the cancer has spread to both sides of the diaphram and possibly to a nearby organ or spleen. Stage 4, the worst kind, is found when the cancer has spread to one or more organ outside the lymphatic system or to a single organ distant from the lymph node.
The cells are much larger than normal lymphocytes and also look different from the cells of non-Hodgkin lymphomas and other cancers and are treated differently. For six months, Jurista received chemotherapy at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia.
"I'd spend a good two, three hours there hooked up to an IV and I got injected with four different kinds of drugs each time I went," Jurista said.
Anger was the overwhelming emotion she felt upon learning the diagnosis but that was eventually tempered by a perpetually upbeat outlook. Her advice to others going through the same trial is to take care of themselves and even be a little selfish.
"There wasn't a day I thought I couldn't do this, I just took it day by day," Jurista said. "And fight for those appointments because sometimes there are wait lists.
"Really be an advocate for your own health, that's something I learned...don't compromise your existence because of what else is happening in the world or with other people. My wellness came first, that I was eating properly and doing everything I had to do to get optimal results."
Jurista will stick around for much more than the victory lap at the Relay for Life. Joined by family and friends making up the Heart and Soles team, she will make a day of it as part of the Canadian Cancer Society's major fundraising effort.
There's still time to register for the walk, either as individuals or as a team. Go to www.relaybc.ca and select ‘Prince George’ from the drop-down menu at the top right of the page.
Cancer survivors and patients who would like to participate in the victory lap are asked to leave a message at 250-564-0885 or send an e-mail to jillgreenl...@gmail.com.
Last year’s Prince George Relay For Life raised more than $490,000, the second-highest total in Canada behind only Coquitlam. Money raised helps the Society fund cancer research and provide support to Canadians living with cancer.