Working mother Kristen Howard’s to do list never ends with working a full-time administrative assistant job at AbbVie, running her daughter to horseback riding, volleyball or track, helping with homework and more. Yet Howard cares deeply for her community through her multiple volunteer activities.
Howard got heavily involved in volunteering after having cancer when she was a child. At just 14, Howard started having intense stomach pains and soon ended up in the emergency room where doctors initially thought Kristen was pregnant. However, when doctors investigated, it turned out Howard’s ovary burst, causing her great pain, and they found a large tumor. She was soon after diagnosed with immature teratoma, a rare type of malignant germ cell tumor, and underwent surgery to remove the tumor and began chemotherapy.
Howard recalls long nights where her mother slept in an armchair next to her bed because she didn’t want to leave her side since she had a 50/50 chance of survival. “Let me tell you, there were days when I didn’t want to fight anymore. As a parent now, I can’t even imagine what my mom felt when I said I didn’t want to fight anymore. But we kept fighting,” Howard says.
After being in and out of the hospital for treatment for many months, Howard made connections with children and people going through similar fights with cancer. She felt comfortable in the surroundings on the oncology and hematology floor and soon after she was in remission, started volunteering each week at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.