By June. That’s her goal. By her son’s second birthday she wants to feel great again. Jennifer Kepner is used to being in control of her life. Cancer has taken that away from her - she can’t fix it, she can’t stop it. So she focuses on small goals that fit within the constraints of her cancer treatment - this gives her some semblance of control. She can live each day, get up again the next, and she can keep on until June.
Prior to moving to Palm Springs eight years ago, Jenn was a military medic and she served a tour in Iraq - it was an experience that was both unique and eye-opening. Upon her return, she began a career as an X-ray tech at a trauma center. Now she spends time with her two kids, Adia (8) and Wyatt (17 months), and with her husband of four years Ben.
Despite her extensive military background and the associated mental toughness, Jenn never viewed herself as an athlete. Like many people, she competed in triathlons before she found CrossFit. And like many people she took quickly to the CrossFit workouts and community five years ago when she became a member of CrossFit Decoded in Palm Springs. After that she earned her Level 1 certification and began coaching.
Jenn’s background and tenacity means she is unstoppable - her fellow CrossFitters have always known that about her so on June 12, 2016 when she was diagnosed with Stage Three Pancreatic Cancer they knew she would fight. And she did - she endured a nine-hour surgery that involved removal of the tumor as well as seven lymph nodes. In the months since she has started chemotherapy and lost 40 pounds. Jenn credits her recovery from surgery and ability to withstand chemo treatments to CrossFit. If she hadn’t started off so healthy she wouldn’t have handled the intensity of her treatment with so much success.
Jenn is midway through a series of biweekly chemotherapy treatments. During the weeks when she doesn’t have therapy, she regularly attends CrossFit classes. Unsurprisingly to those that know her, Jenn has conquered new movements since starting chemo including butterfly pull-ups and handstand pushups.
Through her accomplishments and drive, Jenn inspires her gym mates. They admire her ability to workout at a high level after so much adversity. As mentioned on her youcaring update page, “[w]hen asked to describe Jenn in one word the response was not shocking. A few described her as determined, focused, driven, and unstoppable. All of these traits fit Jenn…. BUT the most commonly described word for Jenn across the board was STRONG. They are most certainly right; Jenn is STRONG. We believe in her and she believes she can beat this!”
Jenn’s friends and family are not only inspired by her determination, they also support her. This summer they ran a CrossFit competition to raise funds to assist with the cost of her treatments. Jenn finds strength in her community and within herself. She has learned a lot about what strength and health means during the past six months. As she says, “I have always thought that fitness is foremost in life. If you can't afford to be healthy you certainly cannot afford to be sick. So, whether it's time or money that is holding you back from being fit and healthy, just wait till you get sick. In my time in CrossFit I have suffered the occasional injury and so, I already knew from those learning experiences that if you CAN, then DO. Because the moment you CAN'T, you are gonna be mad. It's like when my members gripe about running, well, wait until you can't run, then you will change your tune. So, go run while you can.”
Ultimately when asked, what do you want? Jenn's response is simple, “I want to be healthy. I want my health.” That’s it.