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Former Blue Jackets Hero now a cancer survivor and cancer researcher

Jesse Crow survived kidney cancer when she was 5; now, at age 23, she's researching another pediatric cancer.

by Brian Hedger BlueJacketsNHL /

Jesse Crow: A Blue Jackets Hero

Crow battled, survived and now researches cancer

On Hockey Fights Cancer Night, the Columbus Blue Jackets honored Jesse Crow, a former Blue Jackets Hero and 18-year cancer survivor

  • 02:09 •

Her lab is located right next door.

So, whenever Jesse Crow feels the need, she takes a break from her research project at Nationwide Children's Research Institute. She heads out the door for a walk to reset her mind, and often winds up next door at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

She walks through hallways and draws strength from what she sees. Actually, it's who she sees.

The kids who are there, especially those fighting pediatric cancer, are the reason Crow visits. Some are in beds. Others are walking around, lugging IVs with them.

Doctors and nurses hover, monitor, jot things down.

"Especially when something goes wrong or an experiment won't work, it's kind of nice to just, like, walk through the hospital or think about what I'm here for, the big picture," said Crow, a 23-year old pediatric cancer researcher. "I try to do that a lot."

Crow's perspective is unique.

She has a history at that hospital as a patient herself, so when she walks through the halls, she doesn't see patients. She sees herself, as a 5-year old girl, in their eyes.

Crow was one of them once, years ago, emerging from surgery with one less kidney and a new lease on life.

She's more than a pediatric cancer researcher now, who goes to work seeking answers about Ewing Sarcoma, a form of pediatric bone cancer. She's a survivor, who overcame kidney cancer as a child and works every day to understand and ultimately defeat the disease.

Her research, however, is not her first experience helping out with cancer.

Crow did the same thing with the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation's Hats For Heroes program, which was founded in 2000 to raise funds for the fight against pediatric cancer and bring smiles to kids fighting cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

She was one of those Hats For Heroes kids, after going through six months of chemotherapy and eight rounds of radiation treatment to put her cancer in remission. As a survivor, she represented hope for others in the program.

She was just like them, right down to losing her hair.

All those hats came in handy, and she still has them all, including one that hangs in her bedroom.

"It's blue, and it has the silver Hats For Heroes logo," said Crow, who studied biochemistry at Ohio State. "The original one was just black with the little white 'Hats for Heroes,' symbol on it. It's inspiring to have it."

Her chosen profession is too.

"Jesse's journey from pediatric cancer patient to survivor to cancer researcher at the very hospital where she received treatment is truly inspirational," said Kathryn Dobbs, Vice President of Community Relations and Executive Director of the Blue Jackets Foundation. "It's so nice to think that our heroes program added a special chapter in her full-circle experience. Jesse's success story is the one we want to tell for all cancer patients."

The roots of Crow's interest in research began in high school, when she first thought about pursuing a job in the medical field. As college approached, she changed gears after attending a camp for survivors whose cancer is in remission.

"I was making friends with people there, watching them deal with it, and I was just very into science," Crow said. "I was just like, 'I think I want to be on the investigative side of things.'"

That's how she wound up researching Ewing Sarcoma with Dr. Steven Lessnick at Nationwide Children's Research Institute. It's a condition that took the life of her friend, Delaney Diggs, whom she met through Hats For Heroes.

Crow, who attended the Blue Jackets' Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Oct. 27, vividly recalls the day she found out about Diggs' death. That memory is yet another motivation.

"Many folks don't realize that cancer research is actually very grueling," Lessnick said. "'Eureka moments,' where one makes a new discovery are pretty rare. Thus, our research team has to be really committed to do their work, even when there isn't a major breakthrough. I think Jesse's prior experience as a survivor makes her acutely aware of the importance of the work she's doing, and this awareness creates a high level of passion for what she's doing."

That passion is fueled by many things, including her occasional walks next door to the hospital where she lost a kidney and gained perspective.

"The thing that gets to me the most, inspires me the most, is when I see kids walking around, holding their IVs, and the doctors are following them," Crow said. "They're kind of taking their first steps after surgery, you know? It's like, 'OK, I'm doing this for you … to hopefully help you.'"

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