Canton’s Kirsten Bernstein running for a cure

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Editor’s note: The following story by Courtney Dodge originally appeared in the July 23 edition of the Canton Citizen.

On Sunday, August 16, more than 12,000 runners will line up in Woods Hole for the start of the 43rd annual Falmouth Road Race. This seven-mile race is quite the obstacle, requiring strength and endurance from all of those willing to take on the challenge. However, for Kirsten Bernstein of Canton, the past eight years have instilled a level of bravery and strength in her incomparable to that acquired through physical training.

Kirsten Bernstein (right) with her mother, Michelle Loughran

Kirsten Bernstein (right) with her mother, Michelle Loughran

Bernstein’s strength was initially challenged at the tender age of 14, when her mother, Michelle Loughran, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a type of cancer that forms in plasma cells and “causes cancer cells to accumulate in the bone marrow where they crowd out the healthy blood cells,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Amidst the darkness of dealing with a parent battling cancer, Bernstein’s positive light shone brighter than ever. Rather than surrender to her mother’s disease, she was determined to prove to her mother that cancer would not negatively impact her own life.

Rather than lose focus in school, Bernstein went in the other direction, immersing herself in her schoolwork while also juggling sports and family responsibilities. Her unbreakable spirit also extended to the support she gave her mother every Monday, when she accompanied her to chemotherapy treatments — a commitment strong enough to borrow Bernstein from school and raise the concern of her teachers, but not enough to prevent her from making the honor roll.

Along with chemo came a stem cell transplant procedure that was fraught with complications and left Loughran hospitalized for several weeks. It was a difficult time for the entire family; however, Bernstein looks back on her mother’s absence through a positive lens, in that it taught her “how to grow up and mature faster than most,” and also made her “more independent and stronger of a woman.”

During this difficult time in her life, Bernstein joined the CHS cross country team and turned to running as an outlet for releasing stress. Little did she know that years later she would be running once again — this time with Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund in an effort to relieve the stress of numerous other families fighting their own battles with cancer.

Every cent donated is of great importance to Bernstein, who wants to demonstrate to her mother how much “people support cancer research and are raising money for it.”

“I want to run this race for those who have passed, obviously my family and all around us,” she said, “those who have survived, those who are still fighting, and I want to run in honor of all the people in my life who have experienced cancer firsthand.”

Although the past eight years have been anything but easy for Bernstein and her family, she has embraced all that these challenges have taught her. At an age when most of her peers would rather socialize with friends, Bernstein has learned to treasure the simple moments in her life and covets the opportunity to wind down with her mother, even if it’s an activity as ordinary as watching television together.

Above all, Bernstein has remained positive throughout all the obstacles that have been placed in her and her family’s life. She has learned to “look at things in a positive way rather than in a negative way” and to “not take life or anyone or anything for granted.” She looks to the future with hope, optimism, and a constant reminder to “live life to the fullest” — words of encouragement that will surely motivate her final stride through the finish line.

For more information on Kirsten Bernstein’s fundraiser or to help her reach her goal, visit www.rundanafarber.org/falmouth2015/kirstenmarie.

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avatar Posted by on Jul 30 2015. Filed under Beyond CHS, Sports. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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