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Breast cancer advocate feels lucky despite dire diagnosis

RICHMOND, Va. -- Kristin Harris' energy knows no bounds. The soft-spoken Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Central Virginia hammers home a strong message.

"It is a great use of my time. I love it. I am passionate about it. It is very fulfilling," she said. "The mission is to save lives and end breast cancer forever."

Kristin Harris

Kristin Harris

Breast cancer is a disease the 36-year-old woman knows all too well.

"Pink ribbons have been a part of my story since I was four years old," Kristin said.

Kristin’s beloved mother, Maryann, was diagnosed with breast cancer twice. The second diagnosis in 2005 would prove terminal.

Kristin Harris and her mother

Kristin Harris and her mother

"I was in grad school at the time and I moved home to take care of her for the last 15 months," Kristin said.

The University of Virginia graduate knew the chances of her developing breast cancer were high.

Four years ago Kristin’s fears were confirmed.

"It is overwhelming. It really is," Kristin said.

At the age of 32, the North Carolina native was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. The fourth generation in her family. Brave Kristin refused to surrender. Family and friends rallied behind her.

Following 19 months of chemo and a mastectomy Kristin would be cancer free.

Kristin Harris undergoing chemo treatments.

Kristin Harris undergoing chemo treatments.

"At that point I was happy I was not going to treatments," she said. "My hair was growing back and I was able to retire the wigs. I was happy to be cancer free."

Kristin was beginning a new chapter until seven weeks ago.

"I started having pain in my chest that I thought was odd," she said.

Breast cancer has spread to her bones.

There is no cure for stage four.

Kristin is facing yet another tall challenge, but remains remarkably upbeat despite some dark days.

"I am lucky. I am blessed to be the generation that is here with the best medical treatment ever available," Kristin said.

Colleagues marvel at her determination.

"Her genuine spirit for helping others is out of this world," Janna Higgins said. "She brings passion. She brings spirit."

Faced with this new challenge, Kristin is not giving up without a fight and a smile. Not just in her battle, but helping others see the light every day.

I am honoring them in a lot of ways."Knowing that I am making a difference in my life is my hope and my life’s mission," Kristin said. "Sometimes I think when I am fighting the fight I am avenging all of these incredible women that came before me. I think I am honoring them in a lot of ways."

Kristen said she and her colleagues at Susan G. Komen Central Virginia are already planning the 20th anniversary Race for the Cure next spring. Registration opens January 1. The date is May 17, Mother’s Day weekend.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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