Living Proof
A Sense of Optimism: Dr. Kristina Johnson's Story

By Kristina M. Johnson, PhD|June 07, 2021

I had just started graduate school at Stanford, and still had aspirations to play my collegiate athletic sports, field hockey and lacrosse, at a very high level, when I got the cancer diagnosis that would upend my life.
I was told that I had Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph system. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most treatable forms of cancer, with more than 90 percent of patients surviving more than five years and many going on to live long and healthy lives. I would be one of the lucky ones, though I had no way of knowing that at the time.
The treatment was a significant undertaking that lasted six months. It disrupted my studies for the academic year and ended my competitive athletic career. It was a hard time, and I never would have been able to come through it as I did without the strong support of my family and college network of friends, colleagues and faculty members.
I have said in the past that being a cancer survivor makes you a member of a club that you really would have preferred not to join, but you’re nevertheless happy to be there. I am a proud member of this survivors’ club and believe that we serve an important purpose – to be an example to others who are struggling with cancer that, yes, it can be beat.
While it’s hard to see a silver lining in a cancer diagnosis, the experience did teach me a valuable lesson about optimism. When you have cancer, every day presents a new opportunity to get up and say: Today, I’m going to fight this and give that fight everything I’ve got. Every day, you have to recommit to the treatment, put your trust in the research and medical advancements we have made – as awful as that experience might be at times.
This sense of optimism came full circle for me in March when I had the pleasure of touring The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute with President Biden. During the tour, one of the life-saving machines we viewed on the radiation oncology floor was a newer model of the type of machine from which I received my treatment – proof of the progress we continue to make.
To me, this is what Pelotonia is all about: Optimism.
Every year, we come together, marshalling our energy and our resources, and recommit ourselves to pursuing a world without cancer, believing that is indeed possible. I am extremely proud to be the honorary captain of Team Buckeye and humbled to be able to share my personal story. I hope it serves as a reminder of the irrepressible strength of the human spirit and how much more we can do when we work together.
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