Marathon Runner Kristin Ebberts

Kristin Ebberts’ personal experience with Pancreatic Cancer has fueled her desire to focus on improving her own health, and the health of everyone in her life. Kristin lost her beloved father, Stan Neher, to Pancreatic Cancer in 2012. Losing her father to this disease pushed Kristin to take a long, hard look at her own physical condition. Though Kristin always led an active lifestyle, her experience with Pancreatic Cancer has pushed her to evaluate her own exercise and eating habits. Kristin is dedicated to taking charge of her own physical well-being. Through her work as a health and fitness coach, she is also committed to helping others reach their own health and fitness goals.

Kristin grew up in Kansas City, MO. Kristin’s father, Stan Neher, was a pharmacist who ran his own business. He worked hard his whole life, building the business which would provide for his family. Running his business was stressful, however. Stan worked so many hours each week that he had little time left over for things like exercise. Stan had taken up smoking in college and was never able to kick the habit. In 2011, Stan began developing some health problems. He was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. Eventually, further testing revealed that he had a benign tumor in the tail of his pancreas. Surgery was offered as an option for removing the tumor before it would have the opportunity to become cancerous. Stan consented to have the surgery at the beginning of 2009.

Unfortunately, Stan Neher experienced a number of complications following his surgery. He had a lot of fluid that built up in his abdomen that would have to be drained. He was in a great deal of pain for over a year following his surgical procedure. In June of 2011, Kristin remembers her father going back in for testing. He thought that perhaps his abdomen was filling with more fluid, as it had following his surgery. Kristin remembers getting a phone call from her mom, Jewel, who asked her to come to the hospital. As soon as she entered the room, Kristin could tell there was something very wrong. Her father was so upset that he could not even speak. It was Jewel who had to break the news to Kristin by telling her, “It is cancer.” Stan Neher had a new tumor in his pancreas and metastasis in his liver. He was diagnosed with stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.

Stan Neher
Stan Neher
Kristin & her father, Stan Neher
Kristin & her father, Stan Neher

Kristin remembers not fully understanding what the news meant. She says, “I couldn’t really comprehend what it meant. It is like I knew, but I did not really accept it.” Kristin went to doctor appointments with her father, and the doctors all kept telling Stan, “You have to get your affairs in order.” The family felt that his original team of doctors had already written her father off, so they traveled to another hospital for a second opinion. The family wanted Stan to be treated as a living, breathing, feeling patient, not as a “dead man walking”.

Kristin took her father’s stage IV diagnosis hard. Her father had always worked so hard building his business. He had wanted to provide a nice life for his family. He worked long hours so that his wife Jewel could stay at home with the children. Kristin had taken for granted that he would be around for many years to come. She had often turned to her father for advice, and she struggled knowing that she would not have him in her life much longer. Stan’s diagnosis made Kristin appreciate every moment she had with him more. Kristin tried to spend as much time with her father as she possibly could. She ran her own business so she was fortunate in that she could arrange her schedule so that she could be with him.

The Neher family
The Neher family

Stan Neher fought his Pancreatic Cancer as hard as humanly possible. When he was diagnosed with stage IV Pancreatic Cancer, he was told to expect to live only a few weeks. He persevered and survived for much longer than had been anticipated. Stan Neher passed away in August 2012. Kristin says that watching her father fight Pancreatic Cancer made her grow as a person and see life differently. She knows now that every day is a gift and that none of us is guaranteed another day. She has a different outlook on life and appreciates the people in her life more. Her father’s struggles brought her whole family closer together. She and her sisters, Michelle and Erin, have grown closer. They talk more and have a stronger bond than ever. Out of the pain and loss, Kristin has been given a more grateful and appreciative perspective of who and what she has in her own life.

After Kristin’s father passed away, she decided that her health was a top priority for her. Kristin has lost several family members to other forms of cancer. She wanted to do anything she could to prevent herself from getting cancer. She had been active all her life, but she wanted to take her health to the next level. As part of her grieving process, she started researching and learning about nutrition. Kristin has been encouraging everyone in her family to exercise and play close attention to the food they put in their bodies.

Kristin had participated in competitive sports her whole life. As a child she played soccer, volleyball and swam competitively. Her favorite sport was soccer, which she played competitively through her college years. After graduation, when Kristin got her first job, she remembers sitting in her cubicle thinking, “Soccer is over. Now what do I do?” There was no way that this lifelong athlete could just sit at a desk all day long. Though she had always considered herself a soccer player and not a runner, Kristin realized that soccer players actually do a whole lot of running in their games. To counter some of the effects of sitting in an office all day, Kristin took up running as her new sport. She found that she loved the challenge of the training and the competition of racing. She also loved the supportive people in the running community. Kristin found that she loved everything about running.

Kristin ran a half-marathon and then moved on to a full marathon. She loved everything about running and liked to sign up for races as a way of keeping herself motivated to train. Kristin set a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. She ran the Chicago Marathon in 2007, when it was so hot that the race was actually stopped while it was in progress. Then, she trained for and ran Rock and Roll San Diego. She was feeling burned out from running full marathons and claimed she was done with them. However, she had always wanted to do something hard to honor her father. She looked to the Lincoln marathon, thinking perhaps she might get her Boston Qualifier there.  Finding the Lincoln Marathon already sold out, Kristin looked at the charity programs. She saw Project Purple as one of the official charities for the race, and immediately thought that the organization fit her goals perfectly.

Though Kristin has run other marathons before, Lincoln was a different experience for her because she was running for her father. She had developed a nagging hamstring injury following a half-marathon in April. At mile 7 of the Lincoln marathon, her hamstring flared up. Suddenly, Kristin was in the worst pain of her life. She was disappointed because she knew she would not get her Boston qualifier, but she knew she could either allow that disappointment to get the best of her or she could focus on the real reason why she was in Lincoln. She was there to run for her father. So, Kristin readjusted her goals and thought, “After all my father went through, I can do this!” She was proud that she finished in four hours, even with her hamstring pain. Every mile, Kristin found inspiration in the people around her who were all running on behalf of someone. Kristin got through the race by thinking, “This is not about me. It is about battling this horrible disease.”

Kristin & her husband Ryan Ebberts at the Lincoln Marathon finish
Kristin & her husband Ryan Ebberts at the Lincoln Marathon finish

Kristin has a goal going forward of having a new family member join her each year for the Lincoln races. This year, her mom will be running the half-marathon with her. Kristin is thrilled because she never thought she would see the day that her mother would run. Kristin’s mother, Jewel,   has caught the running bug and will be joining the Project Purple team for 2015. Together, Kristin and Jewel will honor Stan Neher, who is gone but never forgotten.

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