Meet Kristie Hall
Senior Business Analyst, Technology Solutions, Sanford Health
When her younger sister Ranae was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 39, Kristie Hall did what any other sibling would: she fought alongside her.
“I am not someone who can sit back and wait for people to tell me what will happen,” says Kristie. “I was immediately researching. I went with her to all of her appointments. I was looking up her medications and getting her on a schedule right away.”
Ranae’s diagnosis came in late February 2016, only one week before her daughter Kiana’s ninth birthday. She waited to begin cancer treatment until after her daughter’s birthday party – with her sister Kristie beside her every step of the way.
“At that time, I wasn’t aware of pancreatic cancer being well-known or talked about,” says Kristie. “I didn’t know much, so I started learning everything I could, and I found these really great organizations.”
The first was Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), a nonprofit that works to fund research, support patients and caregivers, conduct community outreach and advocate for federal funding. The second was Project Purple, a nonprofit that partners with nationwide charity runs to raise money for patients and pancreatic cancer research.
“I started running with Project Purple,” says Kristie. “I am not superfast. I am not even a huge fan of running, but I do it because I can.”
“My sister was very into fitness, especially when her youngest, Kiana, could go workout with her,” she explains. “When she was not able to do that stuff because of her cancer, I took it upon myself to do it for her, and I signed up for the Project Purple half-marathon in Des Moines, Iowa.”
With many charity runs, there is a fundraising requirement. Not only did Kristie exceed the minimum, she also won the most funds raised, an exciting accomplishment only made better by her sister’s presence at the event.
“I ran on Oct. 16, 2016,” says Kristie. “We were able to bring Ranae down in her wheelchair, and she could see me run in four different spots during the race.”
She continues, “It was really emotional, but it was a great feeling to see her there – surrounded by our family and friends – cheering me on. She ended up passing away less than four weeks later on Nov. 12.”
Kristie’s youngest of three sons was set to graduate when she and her husband happily accepted their niece Kiana into their home.
Since then, Kristie has dedicated her time to pushing forward pancreatic cancer funding and research. What began as volunteering for PanCAN eventually led to Kristie being the affiliate chair of PanCAN for Sioux Falls and starting the first PurpleStride walk in Sioux Falls in June 2017.
“Two years after my sister passed,” said Kristie, “I knew my term as affiliate chair was ending. I said I was going to go out with a bang and run a full marathon. I joined Project Purple again, this time to run the New York City Marathon, and I raised $4,000.”
In November 2019, Kristie completed the race, wearing Ranae’s name on her laces.
“It was exhilarating. I am not going to say I was fast, but I did it,” says Kristie. “I remember, at the end of the run, there were these two women in front of me, and I only assume they were sisters, but they grabbed hands as they cross the finish line. I lost it then, thinking about my sister.”
Kristie adds, “My niece Kiana was one of the first people to call me as I finished.”
Kristie remains the interim lead of the South Dakota PanCAN affiliate and is busy preparing for the annual pancreatic cancer walk in Sioux Falls on June 5.
“This will be our fourth year. That first year we exceeded our fundraising goal and actually won affiliate of the year for region 1 – out of three regions nationwide,” she says. “In 2020, we had to move to a virtual walk, and we will be doing another virtual walk this year.”
Kristie and her husband continue to advocate for pancreatic cancer funding and research in both South Dakota and Washington, D.C.
“I am happy to say that this year Congress has increased the federal investment in cancer research, dedicating $15 million to pancreatic cancer, and we could not be more excited,” she says. “Though my time in leading our local affiliate is coming to an end, I will never stop fighting for better outcomes and more survivors.”