Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month: Republic Amazon worker has beaten the odds for 25 years

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 5:40 PM CDT
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REPUBLIC, Mo. (KY3) - At the massive Amazon Fulfillment Center warehouse in Republic Kristin Boley works the overnight shift as a process assistant for inbound deliveries.

But the fact that she’s even here at all is an inspiring story during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month because it shows the strength of the human spirit.

The reason?

Since she was seven years-old Kristin has been dealing with a rare and fatal form of cancer.

“It’s been 25 years with cancer,” she said in an interview following work on Wednesday. “I’m currently 32 (years-old).”

Kristin’s illness is known as Rhabdomyosarcoma where malignant cancer cells form in the body’s soft tissues, usually the muscles. It can affect anyone but is the most common type of soft-tissue cancer in children and can grow quickly to other parts of the body.

In Kristin’s case it started in her jaw and moved to her brain when she was seven years-old. Doctors gave her a life expectancy of just a few weeks to a few months at most.

What followed was chemo, radiation, new treatments and over 500 surgeries that involved removing part of her face and losing her voice which she has since partially regained.

“Then at the age of 16 I had a massive stroke that left me completely paralyzed on my right side,” she said. “I forgot my name. I forgot how to speak. I forgot everything.”

Yet today when you see Kristin walking easily around an Amazon facility that’s the size of 24 football fields, you’d never know all the obstacles that life has thrown her way.

Prior to coming to Amazon in August, 2021 she was a caregiver to others, working with a wide range of clients with physical and mental disabilities.

Since coming to Republic’s Amazon Fulfillment Center she has already been promoted twice and served as a great example of perseverance.

“Just her resiliency and her ability to overcome so much adversity early in life have really been an inspiration to all of us,” said Andy DiOrio, Amazon’s Regional PR Manager. “She always has a smile on her face, always very friendly. She really brightens everyone’s day and it’s a treat to have her here.”

As a company Amazon is very involved in raising awareness of pediatric cancer and contributing towards research. Since a gold ribbon is the official color of childhood cancer awareness, each year Amazon has its own Gold for Kids global campaign with employees volunteering at nonprofit childhood cancer support groups and wearing gold or pajamas to work on certain days to show solidarity with children who spend much of their time living in pajamas as they undergo critical treatments.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death among children behind only accidents.

“This year alone 400,000 children around the world will be diagnosed with pediatric cancer,” DiOrio said. “And the reason this is important to Amazon is while there have been 185 new drugs designed for cancer in the last 20 years, only three were specifically designed for pediatric cancer. So since 2017 Amazon has donated $16 million for pediatric oncology programs and in 2022 there will be an additional $5 million. It’s really a an underfunded, under-explored area.”

And as Kristin continues her battle, living now a quarter-of-a-century longer than doctors thought, there’s something we can all learn from how she’s survived and thrived under difficult circumstances.

“It’s her faith in life,” DiOrio answered when asked what stood out most about Kristin. “I think when any of us have a bad day we might think it’s the end of the world. But when you’re actually faced with the end of your world, it gives you a whole different perspective. Kristin has gone through something that perhaps no one else has ever gone through. All those surgeries over so many years and never losing her faith in overcoming those challenges. It’s amazing!”

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