At just two years old, Kristina King was diagnosed with a rare cancer that caused her to lose one eye.
Retinoblastoma, also known as eye cancer, forced the Solana Beach resident to receive a glass eye. Despite the odds, King is living a full life 22 years later. She’s an accountant at a tax firm after having study abroad in countries such as Switzerland and Australia. And, she enjoys hiking and snowboarding.
But the cancer survivor has a new challenge on her plate: the Carlsbad Half Marathon. King is one of 13 people to participate in Tri-City Medical Center’s Lucky 13, a program designed to help participants who have overcome medical challenges run their first-ever marathon.
King said she signed up for the program to be around “like-minded people” who also overcame hardships.
“I knew that being around other strong people could only help me in my quest to truly appreciating what had happened to me,” King said. “I feel like it was so long ago that I beat cancer but it’s been more of an emotional, mental battle than physical for me. I can only say that being in this group has helped me grow exponentially.”
But King didn’t always have the confidence she has today. She said as a teenager her peers often asked her what was “wrong” with her or what happened to her.
“I think that I tried to hide from the truth because at those ages you just want to be accepted by everyone around you and having something happen to you that makes you stick out and be ‘different’ wasn’t acceptable to me,” King said. “I would deny that anything had happened to me instead of being proud that I had overcome such an awful disease.”
Although she may have been different from her peers, King said her mother ensured she lived the same lifestyle as any other child.
“She put me in just about every sport you could imagine from soccer to basketball to gymnastics,” said King, who has also participated in national gymnastics competitions.
Now King is preparing to run 13 miles through Carlsbad on Jan. 15. To prepare for the lengthy race, King is cross-training with 12 other individuals two days a week. She hopes to finish the race in under two hours.
As she prepares for the next challenge in her life, King said she feels proud to share her story with others.
“I am definitely able to proudly say that I am a cancer survivor to people,” she said. “I also really hope that I can help other kids that are going through something similar, and feel like they are different, to let them know that everything is going to be OK. And that they are perfect just the way they are.”