John Searing, Board Chairman
Brother to Jenny
BSNCF is about cancer patients, survivors, victims, and their families and loved ones that we have served over the past fifteen years.
My sister, Jenny, was my best friend. She was just a year older than me, and as we grew older we only got closer. In high school, we even worked at McDonalds together with my other sister. While driving to McDonalds at 6 am for the morning shift during the summers, or Saturday and Sundays during the school year, we formed a special bond. We laughed about the fun that we had the night before and started to plan what we would do that night.
From high school on, we were inseparable. Jenny’s friends became my friends and vice versa. Once we both started our post-college careers, we met for lunch at least once a week. The one thing that I think most people remember about Jenny was her infectious laugh. She would throw her head back and just let out the most contagious laugh. It made everyone around her laugh along. If I made her laugh in public, I found strangers laughing along just because she was laughing so hard.
At the age of 26, Jenny was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Jenny was vivacious, strong, and young. It was four months from diagnosis to death, and this came as a great shock to my family. The most difficult part for me was the realization that my future, as I always saw it, died with Jenny. I had envisioned every one of my life’s milestones with Jenny in it. My reaction was to put my life on hold. It felt like every step that I took to create a new future, was taking a step away from Jenny. Finally, I had a turning point and distinctly remember having a really good laugh about a year after Jenny’s death. I realized that I had not really laughed since her death and it was at that point that I realized it was going to be okay. I also realized that I had begun to build a new future.
A few years after Jenny’s death, I met Kevin Barnett, who after losing an uncle was watching his mother, Mary, battle uterine cancer. Kevin and I grew up in the same area, and met while working in Timonium, Maryland. Ultimately, Kevin had to deal with the devastation of losing his mom and rebuilding his life afterwards. I was saddened because there were so many people like Kevin and his family that also experienced the pain of losing someone to cancer. Together, we decided to start the Barnett-Searing National Cancer Foundation to offer support to people living with cancer and their families. I credit Kevin’s enthusiasm as being the catalyst that energized the start of the Foundation.
Today, the Barnett-Searing National Cancer Foundation has extended Jenny’s impact. I take comfort in knowing that the light that was Jenny’s life still shines warmly upon my life and many others. Because of the Foundation, Jenny does not seem so far away, and she is still bringing a smile to others. Because of the Foundation, there is also a personal link for my daughters, who never met their Aunt Jenny, to know her and to see the difference that one person can make in the lives of others.
As we embark on new paths to provide hope for those with cancer, I am excited for the future of the Foundation. We will honor cancer survivors by telling their stories. We will celebrate the spirit of those who have passed and offer ways for their family to celebrate their legacy through community projects benefitting cancer, fundraising, and paying tribute to them through athletic events.
As it is proven that exercise and a healthy lifestyle is one of the leading ways to prevent cancer, we are adding a fitness team to the Foundation. This also mirrors Jenny’s love of sports. She played competitive tennis in college and was always active. Coaching my daughters’ teams, running races, and participating in triathlons has also been an important part of my life. These activities help me maintain a level of health and also refocus me mentally on what is important. Racing has also provided an opportunity for me to raise funds for the Foundation and race in Jenny’s memory and for those who can’t.
While Kevin and I founded BSNCF, it is not just about us. BSNCF is about cancer patients, the survivors, the victims, and their families and loved ones that we have served over the past fifteen years. It’s also about BNSCF’s numerous loyal volunteers and supporters that have enabled us to thrive as an organization and make a difference in the lives of so many from administering care packages, to revitalizing waiting rooms, to offering care giver seminars, to giving logistical support. We want this new phase of the Foundation to be dynamic and inspiring just like the two women it was founded for as well as for those who are affected by cancer today.