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My Daughter’s Battle with Stage IV Cancer

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Kristin Peabody is fighting for her life through the power of positivity and an admirable strength.

By Jan Heaton, Photos courtesy of Kristin Peabody

My talented daughter, Kristin Peabody, is an entrepreneur. With her friend and business partner, Sheila Garrison, they own five Hiatus Spa + Retreat locations. One year after opening the first Hiatus Spa in Dallas, while pregnant, she was diagnosed with parotid cancer, a rare head-and-neck cancer. Kristin believes that research, innovation, perseverance, planning and exploring all resources is the key to success, and for the last eight years, she has tackled her cancer with the same attitude.

Kristin has stage IV metastatic parotid cancer and was diagnosed with a third recurrence in February. Because of this, she is no longer a candidate for conventional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

A strong and determined woman with a warrior’s spirit, she has been in a clinical-trial treatment since April 1 at University of California San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center. Right now, she is stable, but we want more. She is happily married to her husband, Wyatt, and together, they have an 8-year-old son, Heaton. There is nothing she wants more than to see Heaton grow up, attend college, have a career and start a family of his own. It’s what we all want for our lives.

Back in April, Kristen wrote the following on her blog:

I started thinking about other positive things, to shift my mind to a happy place, which then led my brain to some typical, incessant planning. For those of you who know me well, I’m a planner, a flexible and often spontaneous planner, but a planner nevertheless.

I then started to wonder: Is this why I’m still here? I was given this diagnosis eight years ago and, according to the statistics, I should be in an urn in our living room. But I’m not. Is it because I can’t seem to let go of the future?

I know a lot of people dwell on their cancer. It’s an easy thing to do, especially when you’re dealing with recurrences and symptom management year after year. And don’t get me wrong; my days are not perfect. The headaches and the pain can take me down for days at a time. And I have an open wound from my November surgery that has been bleeding for seven months now. I just tell myself that those uninvited, mutated cells are on a superhighway out of my body, and it’s causing a little bleeding from the traffic jam.

But back to my planning. I think it must be what keeps me alive. This week, we met with a contractor to talk about some little renovations for our house this summer. I still forward my partners emails from brokers about future spa locations. I made travel plans to Europe for the first week following the end of my weekly labs while on trial. Last night, at an Easter-egg decorating party in the park, I ran into a new friend of mine who has also had some health issues. We spoke about how important it is to reframe the illness and envision your life as you want it. It is a proven that if you let your mind consume you with thoughts about the dreadful illness, it can take over your body.

Aug. 16, we launched the Peabody Fund’s Cancer Vaccine Project, with a goal of raising $1.1 million in the next three months. As of Oct. 9, we have raised almost $200,000. This money will give 10 patients, including Kristin, the opportunity to be in a personal vaccine clinical trial at UCSD, a treatment that is the future for cancer care and eradication. Through the research of Dr. Ezra Cohen, one of the leading oncologists in personalized immunotherapy, and $1.1 million in project funds, this trial can be expedited and get off the ground. This is how it works: The concept is to create a personalized vaccine specifically formatted to an individual’s genetic sequencing and the specific mutation of their cancer. There is much research behind this technique, but this would be one of only a handful of trials, with all doctors racing to find the cure. It can be the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, time is not on our side. We know that we must move quickly.

We are in a fundraising frenzy. Sept. 23 at the Davis Gallery in Austin, we raised more than $40,000 in two hours. More than 70 artist friends created mandalas for Kristin. Hiatus Spa + Retreat in all five locations is hosting a fundraiser right now.

We believe in the power of positive thinking and community support, and that it does take a village. Our strength and success come from our friends and family and all those who love Kristin and her sweet family. When you donate, please know you will not only be helping Kristin, but nine other patients involved in this trial, and also advancing a groundbreaking cure for cancer, a disease that has sadly touched all of our lives. 

To help Kristin Peabody, please consider donating at tinyurl.com/generositypeabody, donate at tinyurl.com/peabodyfund and share Kristin’s story on Facebook and follow @thepeabodyfund on social media.

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