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Since receiving a stage IV cancer diagnosis in 2019, it’s an understatement to say that Jennifer Kroll has experienced ups and downs. But through every aspect of her journey one idea was constant: Jennifer wanted to lift.

Jennifer Kroll lifting at home
Jennifer Kroll’s style of weightlifting is known as “Olympic Lifting” – the only strength sport that is still included in the Olympics.

As an avid “Olympic” weightlifter, Jennifer’s goal was to keep lifting weights as she battled cancer, even as she dealt with uncertainty around her own diagnosis and recovered from brain surgery.

Even more importantly for Jennifer were the other weights she wanted to lift for her fellow cancer patients – by somehow lightening their financial burdens.

After having personally experienced how much need exists for anyone battling cancer, Jennifer began her mission to raise both money and awareness for these patients. Her fundraiser benefits UNC Lineberger’s Comprehensive Cancer Support Program and is ongoing through December 18th.

Jennifer is a serious contender to smash her fundraising goals. In 2020 she completed a fundraiser that raised nearly $12,000 for Moses Cone Health, where she was also a patient. Her immediate goal is to raise at least $10,000 for UNC Lineberger.

“Meeting or exceeding this goal or exceed would mean a tremendous amount because I know so many patients need to have their needs met,” said Jennifer. “The enormous need required to support all cancer patients is visible within any cancer center.”

Jennifer’s journey with cancer began in spring of 2019 when she began to feel very ill, practically overnight. Following an emergency room visit and brain surgery, she received the news that she had stage IV cancer. Though her medical team at Moses Cone reported the cancer had spread to her brain and lungs, they could not conclusively identify what type of cancer she had. Six months later, after immunotherapy treatments and radiation, as well consults with experts across multiple institutions, she finally received a diagnosis of melanoma. At this point, Jennifer also became a patient at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, where her treatment was directed by Stergios Moschos, MD, and Colette Shen, MD, PhD.

Jennifer described how Dr. Moschos worked in coordination with her Moses Cone oncologist to determine the best plan for treatment and follow up. “They were always driving forward together to understand what the best course of action would be. That was very encouraging,” said Jennifer.

Paula Landman, RN, MSN, a nurse navigator in the UNC Skin Cancer and Melanoma Program, was also a great resource. “She would do whatever was needed to make people feel comfortable and provide access.”

Jennifer Kroll with son Dante
Jennifer Kroll and her son Dante

Jennifer stopped treatment 10 months ago and recent scans have shown positive results that indicate the cancer has not continued to spread.

While dealing with her own disease process was of course physically demanding, Jennifer describes how hard it was to see other patients who weren’t doing as well as she was. “When you see other people next to you who are clearly struggling in so many ways, that is exceptionally difficult, and all I could think about was how can I help them to at least feel better, even temporarily, so that they can continue to fight.”

Jennifer worries about patients’ ability to get the full range of support required for healing, including mental health supports, nutritional food, rent assistance, and more.

Knowing the level of stress that cancer patients constantly live with, and how costs are rising, Jennifer says her efforts would be successful “if the bare minimum, the basic costs of living, could be met for even one person. We all need to help out as much as possible to help achieve this goal.”

You can find Jennifer’s Community Funded page to benefit patients at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center here.

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