Kristina Gianinni of Avon is a businesswoman, mom, and volunteer. Her avocation, though, brings her to a local basketball court. Here, she coaches young men and women – including her own daughter. The sport provides her both focus and refuge from life’s pressures, while helping others appreciate the positive aspects of working as a team.
“I can forget about everything when I go on a court,” Kristina said.
But it was on the court that she learned about her toughest opponent yet: cancer.
“It was definitely hard to hear the word ‘cancer,”‘ she said.
But coaching could not – and did not – wait. In fact, she continued to work with her girls throughout her treatment. It helped her to cope.
“I’m getting on a court and running a practice and bringing out the best in people,” she said. “It allowed me not to think about what I was going through.”
It also helped her to see the parallels between the team she coaches, and the team of health care providers who were now helping her on her cancer journey.
“All those wonderful nurses that, you know, they really do make you feel special,” she said. “I trusted them and they didn’t fail me. I mean, this was my team.”
When her team recommended her for participation in a new clinical cancer drug trial, Kristina was intrigued. Offered through the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute as part of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, this newer chemotherapy offered treatment with fewer side effects. Not only would this option help Kristina personally, it would also provide valuable scientific information to improve cancer treatments for others.
“I didn’t lose my hair, my eyebrows or my eyelashes,” she said. “It wasn’t a vanity thing for me. It was (about) being a very strong woman. And I was in the business world and I was coaching and I was a mom and I’m heavily involved in the community. I didn’t want people to ask a lot of questions.”
Strong enough to both inspire her those she coaches, and beat cancer. Kristina is now two-years cancer-free.