“I’ve always been a runner,” Krista Kruger of Cuba City said.
She has completed numerous local and national races in 2012 and 2013, usually wearing an orange “Team Egan” shirt supporting her neighbors, Eric and Alex Egan, 9 and 12, who are fighting to regain their health.
In 2012 Alex was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a blood cancer that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow, the soft inner part of bones. His mother, Becky Egan, said treatment has been going well for Alex. She said he’s now on the maintenance phase of the treatment, and is expected to have 2 ½ more years of that phase, which involves monthly treatments as well as medications at home.
“The boys have been through a hard year,” Becky said. “Alex missed quite a bit of school due to treatments. The first eight months of treatment is more intense with weekly appointments and treatments. There were many times when Alex needed to be hospitalized due to illnesses that needed antibiotics and monitoring by the nursing staff.”
Also in 2012, Eric was diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), a preleukemic condition that would change over time to leukemia. The treatment and cure for MDS is a bone marrow transplant.
Becky said Eric entered the hospital on Aug. 13, 2012, to prepare and receive chemotherapy for the bone marrow transplant. He was in the hospital for six months because the transplant was not working. On Oct. 25, 2012, a second transplant was conducted and it took. She said it takes three to four weeks after the transplant to see if the new bone marrow is growing in the place of where his own bone marrow used to be.
Eric arrived home on Feb. 21 and was welcomed home by a parade of fire trucks and police cars and the streets lined with people cheering for him.
Becky said she anticipates that Eric will return to school this year, after not attending the 2012-13 school year. She said he won’t be there right away, but should be in his classroom eventually. He needs to allow his immune system to build up to be able to fight off illnesses, first.
“It was hard on our family to be apart for such a long time,” Becky said. “Roger, the boys’ dad, stayed with Eric the most during the 6-month stay [at the hospital]. During this last winter, there were times when both boys were admitted to the hospital at the same time. Since Roger was already staying with Eric, either one of the grandparents or myself stayed with Alex while in the hospital. With two children requiring special medical care in Madison, our family pulled together along with the help of friends to keep the home running and getting Alex to the hospital or appointments.”
Becky said the community has been very supportive of her family. She said people wear the “Team Egan” shirts that were created by the boys’ wrestling club in Dubuque, Iowa. People have also provided meals, held fundraisers and sent gift cards to help with the trips to Madison for treatments and appointments.
“The Kruger family has been an advocate for our boys in their own special way,” Becky said. “Their message about being a bone marrow donor is displayed in every marathon they run.”
“It’s kind of neat to have a reason to run,” Krista said. “Sometimes it’s hard and you don’t want to do it anymore, but then you think about how hard someone else has it. I think that’s a reason a lot of races are for charities.”
Krista said she holds these races close to her heart because they’re for the kids.
“We wanted to do something, but we didn’t know what we could do to support them,” Krista said. “I’m sure the boys appreciate seeing all of the people wear their shirts.”
Seven of eight races so far this year she has worn the Egan attire; the one race she didn’t wear the shirt it was too warm.
“In every race, people yell ‘Go Alex and Eric’ because they see the names on my shirt,” Krista said. “It’s neat to be cheered on and know there’s a good cause. We’re like moving billboards.”
Krista said she wore out a cotton version of the Egan shirts and ended up purchasing dryfit versions to wear in the races.
“I like to run in orange,” Krista said. “People can see you in it.”
Krista said she’s recruited a couple of other people in the area to run with, including her husband, Don. She’s helped them train for races this summer.
“Training is the hardest part,” Krista said. “It’s 13 weeks long and sometimes it’s hard to stick with it. Running with other people I’ve got someone to talk to the whole time.”
She said she took a break from running while she had her three daughters, but has gotten back at it in the last year. She ran five 5K races in 2012 and so far in 2013 she has run three 5K, one 10K, three half marathons and one 7-mile race. She still has four races to complete later this year and is anticipating her first marathon next year. Now she trains by running five or six days a week.
“Running has become a big part of my life,” Krista said. “It’s addicting. It’s also peaceful. It’s my me-time. I’ve also lost 38 pounds, so that’s something that makes me feel good. It’s not all about being fast. It’s about the experience.”
Krista is especially looking forward to the Ultimate Mother Runner Ragnar Relay Series race on Oct. 4-5 from Cumberland, Md., to Washington D.C. The race is exciting for Krista because she entered a video contest and was one of 22 winners, earning her approximately $400 in prizes, which includes running shoes, compression socks, clothing, snacks and entry to the race, valued at $130.
Krista said her winning video was back-and-forth shots of her children doing the housework while she trained for an upcoming race. Her husband helped with the video, which needed to be a creative way to explain why she deserved to join the Ultimate Mother Runner Showdown, a 200-mile relay race.
The two-day race is a team relay: 12 runners each run three legs that range from roughly 3-10 miles. By the end of the relay, each runner will have run between 13-22 miles, and spent anywhere from 16-24 hours in a van with approximately four total hours of sleep.
Krista will join athlete authors Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, who also have the Another Mother Runner website to help women with training for races.
“I’m excited that I’ll get to spend some time with both women during and after the race,” Krista said. “I’ve got both of their books and plan to take them to get them signed.”
Visit marrow.org for more information on joining the bone marrow registry. For some people, a bone marrow transplant is their only cure and hope. With more DNA on the registry, there are more treatment options possible.