Kristin Sanborn Todd
Kristin Sanborn Todd

The journey continues
The legacy of Kristin Sanborn Todd

In July of 2013, only weeks away from delivering her first child, Kristin Sanborn Todd discovered a lump in her breast. She learned it was invasive breast cancer. After welcoming Logan into the world and further evaluation, the 32-year-old new mom and her husband, Brian, received the devastating news that she had stage IV breast cancer with multiple metastases.

“I remember her saying, ‘This isn’t fair.’ That was the beginning of the journey,” recalls Alden Sanborn, Kristin Sanborn Todd’s father and a family-practice physician. “She was told she had a 1% chance of living five years.”

Living is exactly what Kristin Sanborn Todd focused on.

“She didn’t want people to see a sad story when they saw her,” explains Brian Todd, her husband of 10 years. “Everyone saw her live boldly and with a lot of determination. Her commitment and courage inspired everyone around her.”

With a newborn at home and a job she loved, as a nurse practitioner at UC Davis Medical Center, she leaned on others and approached every challenge with a can-do attitude and the mantra, “the journey is ours.”

“She was a reminder every day that you meet people where they’re at and always bring your best self to them,” recalls Sharon Myers, a UC Davis nurse who worked with Kristin Sanborn Todd for six years. “She looked at this challenge like she did her patients — there’s always hope.”

During the five years after her diagnosis, Kristin Sanborn Todd underwent surgeries, multiple tests, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Through all the ups and downs, she remained determined to enjoy life with her family and her work with heart failure patients.

“Kristin always thought about others before herself. I think that’s why she gravitated toward nursing as a profession,” Sanborn says. “I told her that she didn’t have to work while undergoing treatment, but she said, ‘Dad, I want to keep working. I love my job. It gives me a feeling of self-worth.’”

Her dedication to her patients and her willingness to go above and beyond for those in need of extra compassion and attention made Kristin Sanborn Todd a quiet role model. It also prompted her father to invest in future nurse practitioners studying at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis through the Kristin Sanborn Todd Memorial Scholarship for Nurse Practitioner Students, an effort that others have joined financially as well.

“I know what it’s like being in school and wondering where you’re going to eat. Kristin, herself, worked the entire time she was in nursing school,” Sanborn explains. “I hope to help someone who may struggle with the finances of school. If we can inspire others to try and be like Kristin, we’d have a much better health care profession.”

Sanborn says his daughter didn’t consider cancer a battle, rather a journey that a lot of people were on with her. Her journey ended on April 14, 2018, just shy of her son’s fifth birthday. Yet her spirit lives on, through her friends and family and in future School of Nursing students who will continue the journey in receipt of this generous gift.

“I want students to recognize that even in their hardest moments in life and with the greatest challenges in front of them, they can derive real purpose and meaning from those they care for and how they work to improve the world around them,” Brian Todd says. “We’re all in this together. Those of us who knew and loved Kristin and future students who, I hope, will strive to have her extraordinary dedication to the care and comfort of their patients.”