When Jennifer Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago, she decided to wholeheartedly fight the disease, becoming a prominent advocate in the Twin Cities for women battling the same diagnosis.
She was a frequent speaker at breast cancer-related events, where she shared her story with others. Anderson's battle with breast cancer also inspired a close friend to create the Breast Cancer Ride, a popular annual fundraising bicycling event.
"Someday cancer may actually take my body, but I absolutely refuse to give it my life," Anderson would often say when she talked publicly about her cancer.
On Aug. 9, Anderson, an Eden Prairie resident, died from the disease. She was 46.
"I think her legacy is going to be how much grace and humor [she had as] she dealt with the breast cancer," said J.R. Anderson, her husband. "She fought the fight and never complained about anything."
Born April 26, 1966, in Pittsburgh, Anderson earned a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising at Ohio University in 1988. She moved to the Twin Cities almost 20 years ago to open a store for a handbag and luggage company at the Mall of America.
A couple of years later she met J.R. at a local copier company where they both worked. The couple married in 2003, and Anderson embraced J.R.'s three daughters from a previous marriage, taking on a mothering role in their lives, he says.
It was during a routine mammogram when Anderson was 40 that she learned of her cancer, which after years of treatment eventually spread to her bones.
"Despite Jen's dire diagnosis, she embraced life with an indomitable spirit," says friend Kari Mitchell. "She aggressively checked off items on her bucket list. She went skydiving, flew a helicopter, visited Italy. She exemplified the spirit of the survivor who would stay positive ... regardless of the ultimate outcome."
The day Anderson told Mitchell about her diagnosis, Mitchell decided tolaunch the Breast Cancer Ride in her honor. Mitchell, who had previous experience producing charity bike rides, says she wanted to do something to "acknowledge Jen's fight."
Last August, with Stage 4 cancer, Anderson rode over 100 miles in the Breast Cancer Ride, Mitchell says.
"Jen's involvement with the bike ride has left a powerful legacy. In the five years of the ride, we haveraised over $1.2 million for charities at the front linesof the fight," Mitchell said.Money raised has gone to the Minnesota Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Open Arms of Minnesota and its efforts to provide organic meals towomen undergoing treatment forbreast cancer.
Besides her husband, Anderson is survived by her daughters, Nicky Thompson, Jessica, and Stephanie; parents Ed Humeston and Edie Yeager of Pittsburgh; and sister Susan Coyle.
Services are at 3 p.m. Thursday at Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina.
Rose French • 612-673-4352