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EMBRACING LIFE: Young woman fighting aggressive cancer learns how to really live
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EMBRACING LIFE: Young woman fighting aggressive cancer learns how to really live

Kristen Owens said she probably wouldn’t have gone skydiving before her cancer diagnosis.

"I would have been scared,” the Elm City woman said Tuesday morning.

But she wanted an adventure. She wanted to do something she might have done at some point in her life. She didn’t want to miss out.

" ’Cause you never know what will happen,” she said.

The adventure last month was awesome for Kristen: "The best adrenaline rush ever.” And it was good for her mother, Becky, who cried as she watched her daughter descend from the tandem jump. But it was tears of happiness. She was happy that Kristen felt good enough that day to jump, that she could still do daring things after 47 chemotherapy treatments in less than two years.

Since that jump, Kristen has taken a turn for the worse, and last week, her doctor told her and her parents that it was time to start planning.

Dr. Arthur Hanson, who did her first cancer surgery to remove a tumor on her ovary that was bigger than a softball, was there for her again when it was discovered the cancer had metastasized to her abdomen and told them they should start getting things in order. It was a hard conversation for all of them, including the doctor who cried when he left the room.

Kristen was ready to stop chemotherapy and its side effects. But stopping treatment and accepting hospice into the home doesn’t mean she’s accepted defeat. Her faith has helped her realize that.

"Accepting doesn’t mean I’m giving up,” she said. "It means I’m OK with whatever happens.”

Send message to Kristen If you’d like to send a card, mail to Kristen Owens at 6227 Bottoms Dairy Road, Elm City, NC 27822 or to P.O. Box 1665, Elm City, NC 27822 You can also leave a message of encouragement on The Wilson Times Facebook page. A video of her speech at Fike will also by posted on our Facebook page. ­­
Telling her story

Kristen said she found her purpose in life because of ovarian cancer diagnosed when she was a sophomore at Appalachian State University.

"And that’s sharing my story and inspiring people,” she said.

Her message: "Don’t wait to live your life. Enjoy every minute now.”

She told that message at Fike’s graduation Saturday, sharing the intimate details of being told there’s nothing left that doctors can do to save her life and telling how she really started living when she knew she had cancer. How her fight has changed her life.

"I’m not empty-handed,” she said. "I learned so much.”

Kristen said she met amazing people and grew closer to her family, and she cherishes the time she has with them. She wants others to realize how important these things are as well.

Cancer really made her live her life, she said in her speech.

"This fight with cancer didn’t bring me down. It only lifted me up.”

Kristen decided early on to have a positive attitude.

"Being negative would just make things worse,” she said Tuesday, snuggled into a comfortable sofa at home. The family dogs stayed close by, nuzzling and cuddling with her every chance they got.

People have told Kristen and her parents in person, or in cards, Facebook and text messages that her attitude has inspired them.

But Kristen turns it around.

"They say I inspired them, but really, those messages helped me get through each day, knowing my positive attitude is good for other people,” she said.

So many want to help

Those who have been touched by Kristen’s story have reached out to the Owenses in many ways.

Cards and letters with messages of hope and often money tucked inside arrive often. Groups have put on fundraisers to help the family with medical and travel expenses.

This week, two special birthday cakes and close to 200 cards arrived at the Owens home to celebrate Kristen’s 21st birthday. Hundreds of messages were also delivered on social media.

Becky said she’s always getting messages asking, "Can we feed your family?”

A stranger from Canada picked up their airfare for one trip to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. A friend of Kristen’s dad, Ray, arranged for tickets for another trip.

Everyone wants to help.

The bucket list

Kristen made a bucket list when she got sick — a lineup of things she wanted to do before she died, whether that was soon or many years away.

With the help of family and friends who have generously opened their wallets, Kristen has been able to cross off many things on her list.

Skydiving was on the list, and thanks to a cousin it was paid for in full.

She met her favorite athlete, soccer player Ali Krieger, and she watched Duke play UConn in women’s basketball thanks to a rugby friend who got her seats in the family section.

She mentioned on her Facebook page that she and her brother Caleb missed their old four-wheeler, and she wished she had another one. In no time, her father got a call that someone who wanted to remain anonymous had purchased her a new one and that it was waiting for her at a dealership in Raleigh. Kristen and Caleb have spent many carefree hours riding in the fields by their home and going mudding.

And she took trips to the mountains and to the beach, staying in homes of friends.

But not everything is crossed off her bucket list.

Kristen would love to go on a cross country road trip; she and Hanson want to go to a Tobs baseball game together.

And Kristen really wants to see her friend E.J. Proctor play in her first soccer game at Duke University.

All of these plans depend on how she feels. Kristen has good days and bad days when stomach cramps and pain get the best of her. But medication helps.

She posted on Facebook Wednesday, "Thank God for morphine and nausea meds.”

Kristen knows she put up a good fight, and she doesn’t want to feel like she’s lost, as she said so well in a blog last week:

"I never want to hear anyone say that I lost my battle with cancer. I did not. I won. I won because I received so much more out of this fight than cancer did. You may have taken my health, my organs, and my body, but you didn’t take my spirit, my attitude, or my love. And because of that, I won this fight. Not cancer.” | 265-7810

Send Message to Kristen

If you’d like to send a card, mail to Kristen Owens at 6227 Bottoms Dairy Road, Elm City, NC 27822 or to P.O. Box 1665, Elm City, NC 27822.

You can also leave a message of encouragement on The Wilson Times Facebook page. A video of her speech at Fike will also by posted on our Facebook page.
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The Price Family said...

Hello Kristen,
You and my sons were at Gardners together. I have not spoke with you in many years. You are a inspiration. I am proud of your courage. I know yours parents are proud of you as well. Stay strong!

Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 3:47 PM
Evelyn said...

Kristen you are such an inspiration to everyone and a lovely young lady inside and out. I know God has his loving arms wrapped around you and your family, keep thinking positive! God Bless, keeping you in my prayers.

Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 11:28 AM
Awesome said...

Awesome article, Awesome Kristen. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 7:49 PM
Elm City Also said...

I don't know you Kristen but you truly rock!!! I love your attitude and desire to kick cancer in the butt!!! Best Wishes and I hope and pray that you have a chance to cross EVERYTHING off of your bucket list and more. P.S. Dr. Hanson is an awesome doctor.

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 6:53 PM
smh said...

She is such a strong woman..This story has brought tears to my eyes. Dear Lord may you put your healing hands on Kristin..Amen...

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 8:47 AM
Christie said...

What an inspiring woman. I was at graduation and heard her speech. It was not sad but one of dignity and positive messages. I only met her once but what an amazing person! You have touched more people than you know!

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 8:37 AM
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