Why We Run: finding peace within

(NEWS CENTER) -- Jason Kroot insists he is not a runner.

"I have always said I was not a runner, I'm still not a runner. I mean, I was a catcher in high school, I was a goalie, and a skier," said Kroot.

He might not be the typical runner physically, but he has the emotional strength of a runner. Kroot refuses to give up, even when there is pain. Kroot has experienced more than the average amount of pain for a 26-year-old. In 2007, doctors diagnosed Deb, his mother, with an advanced stage of lung cancer.

"She was never really ready. It was something that came on pretty quick," said Kroot.

The cancer spread fast, metastasizing, or going from one organ to several others, in only 3 to 4 months. Within a year of diagnosis, she passed away. Kroot was only 19 at the time.

"We never really reacted as a (whole) family. I was the oldest, and at the time I didn't understand the gravity of it."

A few years passed and the family adjusted to a new normal. Jason and his dad, Brian, went on a boys' trip to Key West, Florida. More than just a fun time at the beach, it was a relationship-shaping vacation.

"When we had come back to that we had sort of gone from the father-son relationship and moved to being more friends, or best friends," said Kroot.

Kroot said he thinks the trip prepared him and his father for their next emotional roller coaster. Just two and a half years after his mother's passing, Kroot received a call. He was on the way to Sugarloaf with his friends for a weekend ski trip. His dad told him he was in the hospital with a kidney stone. Since Maine Medical was on the way to the mountain, Kroot decided to drop-in to check on his dad. His dad would end up staying in the hospital for 28 days because he had leukemia.

"I thought my job could wait, my career could wait, and I'm glad I put that aside for awhile," said Kroot.

Kroot left his career in Boston and moved back to Cumberland to take care of his dad. His father's treatment included a stem cell transplant, two different trials at Dana-Farber, a medication dosage that cost $3,200 a day, and a case of pneumonia. Plus, there was the constant fear that the cancer would regain its strength. Fourteen months after stem cell transplant, Brian Kroot's leukemia came back stronger than ever. Two and a half weeks after confirming he had relapsed, he passed away.

"The time I've had with him was probably the most precious I've had with anyone in my life," said Kroot.

Since then, Kroot has been transitioning into a new role in his family. He has sold the family home, balanced all the household finances, and taken on the father role for his younger brother and sister. For him, it's out on the trail that his mind finds peace.

"You're out there for 12, 16, 18 miles...I'm running alone, and I have music on, but after 2 miles, you settle into a pace and the mind wanders," he said.

Kroot runs with memories of his parents, inspired to make a difference. Two years ago, Jason met Colin, a 6-years-old with a cancerous brain tumor. They became friends as part of the Dana-Farber Patient Partner Program. The program matches a runner with a patient being treated at the Institute's Jimmy Fund Clinic. He is now in remission and only visits Dana-Farber every three months for a check-up. For Jason, it was learning experience that helped him see illness in a different way.

"It's been nice, because... my experience with cancer hasn't had great outcomes. (Colin's) had a much better outcome," said Jason.

He hopes that one day, no other family will experience what his family has. Until then, he plans to keep running and walking until there's a cure.


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