All month long we've brought you inspirational stories of breast cancer patients and survivors, those who are fighting bravely and those who've battled and won. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month begins to draw to a close, we want to share another story with you. This one might be the most difficult to tell.
Kristina Leeann Russell of Port St. Joe was affectionately known by nearly everyone as "Cricket."
She was just 22 when she lost her fight with breast cancer in November of last year but her incredible legacy of hope lives on, through a fund that is now saving the lives of other women.
"Her favorite saying was she didn't have an expiration date," said Nurse Navigator Shelly Cannon. "
She was beautiful inside and outside," said Mammographer Anna Hicks.
Friends and family of 22 year old Cricket Russell say her life was a light.
"She was the type of person that when you walked into her room, everyone was doom and gloom but she was the one laughing and joking and trying to make everyone else feel better about her situation," said Hicks.
It was back pain that brought Cricket to the ER by then it was too late, Stage 4 breast cancer had already moved to her spine when she was diagnosed.
"It's rare because she was so young, when she was diagnosed it was a shock you know of course to everyone," said Cannon.
Cricket did not have medical insurance, a situation that inspired Mammographer Anna Hicks to start "The Cricket Fund" in her honor to provide other uninsured women with mammograms at no cost.
"This helps ease the pain financially for women to come in and get treatment, if you find a problem soon enough it is so much easier to get it taken care of other than waiting," said Hicks.
"No age limit and it's screening, mammos and diagnostic mammos also. So if there is a problem that is covered too," said Cannon.
In addition to encouraging women to get yearly
mammograms, Nurse Shelly Cannon is passionate about another thing.
"You know what your arm looks like and feels like, you need to know what your breast looks and feels like. We as women need to be doing breast self exams every month."
A message they are confident cricket would want to share.
You can donate directly to The Cricket Fund at the Women's Diagnostic Center at Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf.
Checks should be made out to the Sacred Heart Foundation with "Cricket Fund" in the memo line.
The fund is available for the uninsured in Franklin and Gulf Counties, as well as the city limits of Mexico Beach.
Don't forget, breast cancer can strike men too. The Cricket Fund covers mammograms for men as well.