There’s a few ways I could tell you the story of Kristine and Brianna Tesauro.
I could whittle it down to the nonchalant way that they have on their company’s website, which goes a little something like:
Kristine gets cancer; Brianna hangs by her side to make sure she doesn’t die; they get bored during Kristine’s treatments and start a t-shirt company; and now they’re helping other kids battle cancer, too.
Oh, and an $80 cut-out of Ellen DeGeneres somehow fits in there somewhere too, but more on that later.
For now, let's start at the beginning, or at least the beginning of Kristine's new normal.
"I was actually at work that morning doing dishes and stuff," said Kristine, recalling the day she found out she had cancer. "Then I started getting the chills and then dizzy again and really weak, so I finally went into the hospital—I drove myself there—and they took some blood tests."
After the tests, the doctor came in the room.
“'So, it’s looking like Leukemia,'” Kristine remembers him saying.
She let out a nervous laugh, or maybe it's one of utter disbelief, but believe it or not, this isn’t the first bout with cancer the Tesauro family has faced.
Kristine and Brianna lost their brother, Jason, to lymphoma when he was 15 years old.
"It was always one of my biggest fears just because I saw that happen to my brother," said Kristine.
Later that night, after Kristine had received the news, the word reached to her older sister, Brianna.
"From the point I heard it, I pretty much decided she was going to make it through and I was going to just be there every step of the way to make that process easier and do whatever I could to help her through it," said Brianna.
Brianna made good on that promise, and was by Kristine’s side for every treatment except once, when she was sick. The two were living in Redding at the time and drove down to the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Treatment Center in Sacramento for Kristine's treatments every week.
"There was just a lot of driving, a lot of feeling very sick, and, on the couch we watched Netflix most of that year," Kristine said.
The two binged on the NBC hit show "Parks and Recreation" as well as "The Ellen Show."
That's where that $80 cut-out of Ellen DeGeneres the pair ordered off Amazon comes in. The cardboard cutout of Ellen would often accompany the girls at the hospital while Kristine was receiving her treatment and it was a way for the girls to keep positive thoughts.
But not even Ellen could stave off the boredom induced by sedentary nature of chemotherapy treatments, so the girls began turning Kristine’s doodling into dough.
"[Brianna] was out of shape because she would spend all day on the couch with me the whole year, so she was wanting to start working out, but she didn’t have any workout clothes and she wanted something fun and entertaining while she was there," Kristine said. "So I said, 'Ok, I’ll just draw one for you.'"
Kristine began transferring her imaginative sketches onto t-shirts and adding inspiring sayings to go with them. When their friends got a look at the shirts, they wanted them too.
"I remember the first time ever seeing it," said Alyssa Banscombe, a nurse at UC Davis. "The girls were in the operating room just kind of showing me sketches they made on t-shirts. Kind of like a fun little hobby to pass the time. And then when I saw it fabricate into an actual company and a business. It was really amazing."
So, Catch Some Air was born.
The name comes from a saying Kristine and Brianna's grandpa used to tell them. He'd say it when something was bugging him, along the lines of "get outta here!"
"We thought that was a great motto for the rough stuff in life," is how the girls explain it on their website. "Whenever something sucky comes your way, tell it to catch some air, push through it, and try to have some fun in the process!"
"It’s really amazing what I see between them," Banscombe said of the duo. "I see such a strong bond and such a great support, and that’s something that’s really beautiful that’s come out of a dark situation, and I think she couldn’t have gotten through this the same if it weren’t for her sister."
One of their favorite things that's come about as a result of the company is how it's allowed them to connect with other kids at the hospital.
"When you’re meeting other people that are going through the same things and can understand what you’re going through, it really just helps with the process," Brianna said.
"One of the points I wanted to make while I was going through this is: I didn’t want it to take over, I didn’t want it to make me sad all the time, or to be the thing about me that people always knew," Kristine said. "I didn’t want it to be serious and keep me down. So, I focused on the positive and what I could do through it just to stay me and not let it take over."
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