Born and raised in the Santa Cruz area, Kristin Cosner, RN BSN and founder of Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation, needed to spread her wings and find out what the world had to offer. Yet she was drawn back to her home. “Bound by ocean on one side and mountains on the other, I always felt like it was a warm, cozy blanket wrapped around me.” After going to college, starting her nursing career and meeting her husband, she wanted to come back and raise a family here. She and her husband found a house in Scotts Valley a few years before their first daughter, Gabriella was born.
She started graduate work two separate times to become a nurse practitioner, but life had a detour for her. At the age of four, Gabriella was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma.
“Nothing can prepare one for this journey, but we were lucky to come out of it with a survivor. From the moment my daughter was diagnosed to the time she finished treatment everything became uncomplicated. I was meant to not only bring her into this life, but to save her from a devastating disease.”
Kristin realized how supportive the community was when she started her blog about Gabriella’s cancer. From her diagnosis on, whether it was a meal, a gift for her daughters or a gas card to important fundraisers, she and her family found the strength they needed to get through the journey. Once they got to the end of Gabriella’s treatment, they wanted to motivate people to do the same for other families.
“You are faced with the darkest days of your life, wondering if your child will survive this devastating disease. You are faced with many, many harsh realities: surgeries, injected poisons in order to stop the cancer, radiation waves in order to kill the cancer, wondering what I did wrong for her to have cancer—and trying to keep the family together as much as possible while ‘normalizing’ life for our youngest daughter who was not yet 2 years old. I decided early on, with the full support of my husband, that we were going to share our story.”
She also learned that childhood cancer was underserved, desperately needing awareness and funding, so she decided to start a foundation for pediatric cancer. Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation was born. Kristin runs the program out of her home with a few close friends, including a local family who lost their child to the same type of cancer that Gabriella had.
In three years, Team G has packed about 1,200 Hope Totes for newly diagnosed families, which they send out to 10 hospitals nationwide. They have also raised over $200,000 for pediatric cancer research. A huge breakthrough occurred over the summer, when the FDA approved immunotherapy treatments for pediatric cancer at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, only the fourth approved treatment in childhood cancer over the last 20 years.
Kristin is now studying full time in the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner graduate program at UCSF with a focus on pediatric oncology on top of running Team G.
“I think the biggest reason for me to start up the foundation and return to school… is because I wanted to know everything I possibly could about pediatric cancer. Why did it happen to us? Why does it happen at all? I want to be on the cutting edge of research for not only my child’s cancer but other children who are diagnosed with cancer. I want to understand what cancer truly is and learn everything I can about it. I want to have every bit of knowledge I can sink into my brain. If god forbid, cancer ever strikes our family again, I want to be armed with everything I have to fight it.
I also want to make sure my girls know that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. For them to see me complete this path of graduating (and other goals I set in the future)… is of the utmost importance. I want them to know how truly powerful they can be.”
Be sure to mark your calendars for Team G’s next event: Gabriella’s Snow Day on Sunday, December 17th at the Scotts Valley Sky Park. And please join us in celebrating Kristin’s amazing journey and story. Thank you, Kristin, for all the work you do to save the lives of our most vulnerable, to find a cure for childhood cancer and to help those who are fighting it.
Visit her website: http://teamgfoundation.org/
Written by our discoverHER blogger: Liz Hodges